Ableism is the belief that it is “normal” to not have a disability and that “normal” is preferred. It’s discrimination on the basis of disability.

This is Ableism is a campaign inspired by Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and brought to life by people with disabilities in Canada.

We know that #ThisisAbleism:

We asked people with disabilities and their families about ableism and its impact on their lives. These posts were submitted to us.

Image description of embedded TikTok Video: A woman with pink space buns is standing confidently in the woods. She is facing the camera, backlit by rays of sunshine. “Ableism: unconscious bias” is written in the top left corner.
Image description of embedded TikTok video: Two women are seated side by side. The person on the left is wearing a cozy mauve top which coordinates with their burgundy hair. The person on the right is wearing a grey tank top with hair pulled back in a casual ponytail. Both are smiling mischievously and wearing glasses.
Image description of embedded Instagram post: A warm toned grey background with a blue wilted flower in a cage in the lower right hand corner. The text reads “Carceral Ableism: The belief that people with disabilities, particularly those labelled with intellectual, development and psychiatric disabilities require institutionalization in order to receive care”
Image description of embedded Instagram post: A Bingo card titled “University Ableism Bingo”. The centre square reads “Ableism Free Play!” Full description provided in the caption of the post.
Image description of embedded Instagram post: A video of a person paragliding in a wheelchair against the backdrop of a chalky blue sky. The wheels on the		chair are thick and grippy. The paraglider has a go-pro attached to their helmet.
Image description of embedded Instagram post: A man dressed in all black,	 wearing a flat cap and headphones. He’s standing outside a building with lots of windows reflecting clouds in the sky. He’s stance is wide and	his arms are outstretched. The man may just be singing, or screaming?
Image description of embedded TikTok video: A black background. The phrase “What is Ableism?” is in white font in the centre of the screen.
… and ableism is so much more.

A large poster-styled comic spilt in two by a cool blue and soft pink colour. Both comics have seven panels that mirror each other closely. 

The first panel on the left side shows the main character sitting in the priority seating of a subway car. The character is African American and dressed in blue pants that cut off at the calf and an over sized grey hoodie. They hold a phone in their left hand as their bag rests against their ankle, and in their right hand they hold a pole that connects from the seat to the ceiling. Behind them is a poster with a simple ripple affect, it reads “Time Is Money”. Five other passengers sit around the car, they are tinted blue so they blend into the background, forcing the focus on the warm tones of the main character.  

The second panel shows a basic “Maps” program with the characters location on their phone. We are looking over their shoulder and can see a pair of black boots in front of them. The woman wearing the boots clears her throat to get the main character’s attention, “Ahem.” 

The third panel pulls us into a mid shot, revealing more of the character and of the woman. She is blond and is wearing black pants and a purple shirt, her backpack takes up the seat next to her, revealing she herself is breaking a rule of the subway. The main character looks surprised as the woman points to something beside them and angrily says, “You know those are priority seats, right?” 

The fourth panel shows the main character turning to look at the glass partition beside them. The trains doors can be seen through the glass. On its surface we can see a small universal disability sign of a man in a wheelchair. The main character looks hurt and confused as they realize what the woman is accusing them of. 

In the fifth panel we see our main character stand up angrily, pronouncing, “I’m leaving anyway”. They have picked their dark purple bag off the floor and have now pulled their extendible red tipped cane from inside. We can see a large man coming in from the left side of the panel, his fists are balled and he wears a white t-shirt and grey-blue jeans. 

The sixth panel shows the man elbowing the main character, sending them out of the panel with the force of the strike. The main character covers the bottom right hand side of the fifth panel and part of the left hand side of the seventh. Their glasses are thrown off their face and they drop their cane. The main character’s teeth are gritted from the pain of the shove. The strike makes an audible “WHAM.”

The last panel of the left side shows the main character standing disheveled on the platform just outside the sliding subway train doors. They grip their cane tightly as their glasses hang of their face. They have just caught themselves from falling, and we can see the safety marker on the edge of the platform has no texture markers. 

The right side is coloured completely in light pinks and reds giving a much warmer and exciting tone to the story. It is titled “This is Possible.” 

The first panel shows the main character from over the shoulder facing toward the right side of the page. In their right hand we see a black phone with the “Maps” program up and running, and in their left hand they hold a pole that connects from the seat to the ceiling. We can see a pair of dark boots of the person sitting in front of them on the train. There is a loud announcement that is shown over lapping the first and second panel that says, "Next stop, Main Street Station.

In the second panel we see the main character look up from their phone at the announcement. They are smiling and little white lines appear to show the action. We can see a young man sleeping in the seats on the other side of the door. He is fast asleep. Behind them both are posters with simple patterned background with large bold letters reading “Be Safe! Take your time.” 

Our main character stands in the third panel and we see a screen above the door showing the next stope “Next Stop: Main Street Station 5 minuets.” The character looks excited, and there are lines around them to show the upward movement of their gaze. 

With a worried look the main character interacts with the sleeping man which is revealed to be wearing a white T-shirt and blue-grey jeans. They pull their red tipped extendable cane out of their dark purple back while saying, “Hey buddy, last stop. The bubble covers up most of the background but we can see the rest of the train car.

In the fifth panel we see the doors of the train open from the outside and both characters exit the train. The main character extends their cane while they exit and the young man jogs to catch up behind them. 

The sixth and seventh panels bleed together as the two walk off in different directions. The main character heads to the left while the young man heads to the right both waving and smiling. “Thanks again, man,” says the young man and in response the main character answers, “no problem” Their feet can be seen outside of the panel as well as the cane tapping over the textured safety strip on the edge of the platform. 

The final panel shows the main character walking with their head held high, using their cane without worry of prosecution or injury. They have a relaxed pose and a soft smile on their lips

Artist’s Statement:

Possibilities is a two page comic spread written and drawn by Mary-Rose Little, a disabled artist from northern Ontario and practicing out of Toronto. This project was created to raise awareness about ableism in public areas such as hospitals and public transit. Mary-Rose chose to focus on a visually impaired person navigating their way through the public transit system both in the world with ableism and in an idealized version of our own world without it. The comic’s halves mirror each other but show how dignity, basic human rights and respect can change someone’s outlook and attitude. Mary-Rose, the other contributors, and Inclusion Canada hope to talk about these kinds of important, complicated topics in a way that is not only respectful to those experiencing ableism but to also illuminate their struggle and the burden of ableism on disabled people.

How can you take action against ableism in your home, your community, and your workplace?

First, do a deep dive into the rights of persons with disabilities and disability justice

Begin to envision a radically different, more accessible and inclusive Canada. Back persons with disabilities who are breaking molds, claiming rights, or pursuing justice. Support those who are struggling to meet their basic needs.  

Slow down. Question why you’re inspired or, on the flip side, why you feel pity. Listen. Do the work. Challenge yourself to even recognize ableism. Interrupt violence. Respect the inherent dignity of all people.

Here’s more inspiration from the United Nations OHCHR:

Screenshot of UN's What is Ableism? video with clickable link to video.
Screenshot of UN's Participation of People with Disabilities video with clickable link to video.
Screenshot of UN's Legal Capacity for All video with clickable link to video.

Take a look at our blog post for allies: From One Ally to Another – (My thoughts on) how to join people with disabilities in their fight against ableism

Want to get involved in the #ThisisAbleism Campaign?

Consider sending us an email!

We would love to know:

  • How does ableism show up in your life?
  • Do you have ideas or leads for getting our materials before people working in healthcare and commuter transit?

Use the #ThisIsAbleism hashtag on social media.

Being excluded from the universe of people who count means occupying a position that [is] always-already constructed by reference to what it [is] not: not white, not a native speaker of English, not married, not male, not able-bodied, not quite our class… [B]eing one of the normal people means being defined by reference to what you already are and so slides easily into the conviction that one’s own position is simply natural and devoid of political meaning.” – Julian B. Carter

“Ableism set the stage for queer and trans people to be institutionalized as mentally disabled; for communities of color to be understood as less capable, smart and intelligent, therefore “naturally” fit for slave labor; for women’s bodies to be used to produce children, when, where and how men needed them; for people with disabilities to be seen as “disposable” in a capitalist and exploitative culture because we are not seen as “productive;” for immigrants to be thought of as a “disease” that we must “cure” because it is “weakening” our country; for violence, cycles of poverty, lack of resources and war to be used as systematic tools to construct disability in communities and entire countries.”Mia Mingus

This Is Ableism received funding from Allstate Insurance Company of Canada. The views expressed within are solely of the Inclusion Canada, together with project partners where expressly stated. Allstate accepts no responsibility for the views expressed within.