What do the terms ‘disablism’ and ‘ableism’ mean?
According to Scope, a leading disability charity for England and Wales, disablism is ‘discrimination or prejudice against disabled people.’ You may have also heard the word ‘ableism’ be used in a similar context. Scope defines ableism as ‘discrimination in favour of non-disabled people.’
These terms can both be used to describe the discrimination of an individual based on their disability or perceived disability. When talking about bullying behaviour, we use the term disablism, as the focus is on the unfair treatment of someone with a disability.
What is disablist bullying behaviour?
At The Diana Award, we define bullying behaviour as ‘repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable or unsafe.’ Disablist bullying behaviour is when this behaviour is motivated by someone’s negative views about a disability or perceived disability.
There are 3 key types of disablist bullying behaviour: Verbal, Indirect and Physical.
Verbal – Directly using discriminatory or derogatory language to someone with a disability or perceived disability.
Indirect – Discriminating against someone online, or behind their back or purposefully excluding someone with a disability or perceived disability.
Physical – Physically harming, creating, or worsening physical barriers to accessibility or repeated unwanted physical contact with someone with a disability or perceived disability.
What can I do if I am experiencing disablist bullying behaviour?
Experiencing disablist bullying behaviour can be extremely distressing and have a negative impact on your mental health. Not only is it important you get the right help and support, but it is also important to remember that you are not to blame. Here are some helpful tips and links to further support if you are experiencing this:
1. Tell someone. It may feel hard to reach out to someone and tell them what’s been going on, but it is a very important step to getting the help and support you need. Make sure you tell a trusted adult, parent, carer, or teacher so that they can help to resolve the situation.
2. Report the behaviour. If the bullying behaviour is happening online make sure this is reported to the website or platform directly, using the tools available. Screenshots can be useful to provide evidence. On many platforms, you will be able to flag that you are reporting discriminatory language or harmful content related to your identity. If this has been happening in person then report it to a trusted adult, parent, carer, or teacher as they will help you to report and deal with this behaviour.
3. Report the behaviour to the police. Disablist bullying behaviour is discrimination and, in some cases, could also be a hate crime. Disability is one of the 9 protected characteristics as listed in the Equality Act 2010. It is illegal to discriminate against someone due to a disability or perceived disability. If you believe someone has demonstrated this behaviour towards you then please seek further advice from a trusted adult.
4. Join a trusted online forum. There are many online forums and community groups you maybe able to join to speak to others who may have experienced what you are going through. Always check the age restrictions and check with a trusted adult before joining. We recommend trusted forums such as Scope, or one of the forums listed on the Disability Grants page. Sharing your experiences can be beneficial in understanding your emotions, dealing with the impact of disablist bullying behaviour and improving your mental health.
If you can't speak to a trusted adult about what has been happening, there are lots of organisations who can offer support:
Childline have a dedicated section on their website, Deaf Zone, for anyone who is d/Deaf or hard of hearing in British Sign Language (BSL) and English. You can also use Sign Video– a service which allows you to contact a counsellor through a BSL interpreter.
MENCAP’s Learning Disability helpline is free for those with a learning disability who are experiencing bullying behaviour. This helpline, which includes phone and email support, is also available to family and carers.
Join their online community, call or email their helpline free from UK landlines and mobiles for advice and support on issues related to disability and opportunities for community engagement.
The NHS Website can help you find support services in your local area.
Report Harmful Content
This site offers advice and step by step guides to reporting bullying and other harmful behaviours to social media, gaming and online dating platforms.
For further info on what is a Disability Hate Crime (DHC), reporting a DHC online and advice on bullying and harassment.
The Diana Award Advice Messenger
You can also contact The Diana Award Advice Messenger which provides *free, 24/7crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258.Trained volunteers will listen to how you're feeling and help you find the next step towards feeling better.
*Texts are free from EE, O2,Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.