Striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building Vibrant, Diverse, Inclusive, Accessible Communities!



Building Vibrant Communities by Eliminating Systemic Ableism in Administrative Practices

By Mike Thompson, 27 June, 2024
A wearable slogan button that says: 'Eliminate Systemic Ableism!'

Systemic ableism refers to the pervasive, institutionalized discrimination against People with Disabilities embedded within community structures, policies, and practices. This form of ableism is ingrained in institutions, cultures, and norms, leading to persistent barriers that exclude People with Disabilities. Community administrators and members have a responsibility to remove these barriers to ensure full participation in community activities and foster a truly inclusive environment.

Physical Accessibility Barriers

One critical barrier is the lack of essential accessibility features such as ramps, accessible parking, and adequate restroom facilities within community event locations. These barriers prevent People with Disabilities from navigating spaces independently and participating in community gatherings and events.

Communication and Information Accessibility

Communication and information accessibility pose significant problems in community settings. Information is often not provided in accessible formats such as braille, large print, or accessible digital formats. Moreover, there is a shortage of alternative communication methods like sign language interpretation, captioning, and audio description, which isolates People with Disabilities from essential community communications and interactions.

Attitudinal and Cultural Barriers

Deep-rooted attitudinal and cultural barriers contribute to exclusion within community administrative structures. Negative stereotypes, biases, and misconceptions about People with Disabilities influence interactions, decision-making processes, and opportunities for social engagement. These attitudes perpetuate practices that marginalize People with Disabilities, preventing their participation in community life.

Underrepresentation in Leadership and Decision-Making

People with Disabilities are often underrepresented in leadership roles within community administrative positions. This underrepresentation leads to a lack of diverse perspectives in policy-making and results in practices that fail to remove barriers for People with Disabilities in community settings. Without inclusive leadership, initiatives aimed at promoting accessibility and fostering inclusion will not be effectively prioritized or implemented.

Root Out Systemic Ableism

To effectively root out systemic ableism, take the following actions:

Take Immediate Action: General Action Items

Enhance Accessibility

  • Implement initiatives across physical environments, digital platforms, and communication methods to ensure accessibility for all community members with disabilities.

Promote Awareness and Education

  • Provide anti-ableism training for community administrators and members.
  • Challenge stereotypes and emphasize the importance of disability inclusion to cultivate a culture of respect and equity.

Ensure Inclusive Participation

  • Design community activities and events to be accessible, removing barriers that prevent People with Disabilities from participating fully and independently.

Empower Engagement

  • Involve People with Disabilities in decision-making processes, committees, and leadership roles to ensure their perspectives shape community administrative policies and practices.

Advocate for Accessibility

  • Support policies that uphold disability rights, accessibility, and equal opportunities within community settings.
  • Collaborate with disability advocacy groups and community members with disabilities to drive systemic change.

Detailed Steps for Action: Specific Action Items

Promote Accessibility Rights and Advocate for International Standards in Online Publications

  • Raise awareness about accessibility as a fundamental human right.
  • Advocate for the adoption of International Accessibility Standards in online publications.

Learn and Use the International Accessibility Standards

  • Implement International Accessibility Standards across all communication channels (emails, meetings, events, etc.).
  • Utilize free accessibility training resources to ensure inclusive practices.

Plan and Host Accessible Events

  • Prioritize accessibility in event planning to include people with disabilities and diverse racial backgrounds.
  • Remove barriers to participation in community events to foster inclusivity.

Change our Mindset from the Medical Model to the Social Model of Disability

  • Shift focus from fixing individual impairments to addressing systemic barriers.
  • Promote inclusivity and accessibility through a social model approach.

Use ALT Text and Descriptive Images

  • Improve image accessibility by writing meaningful ALT text.
  • Ensure clear and concise image descriptions to aid understanding for all users.

Write Inclusive Accessible Email Messages

  • Create inclusive email communications to avoid creating a sense of "otherness."
  • Foster a sense of belonging and community through accessible email practices.

Learn about and Use Audio Description in Video for Blind and Low Vision Accessibility

  • Incorporate audio descriptions in videos to enhance accessibility for blind and low vision users.
  • Ensure presentations and video content are fully accessible through audio descriptions.

Fix the Unusable Flaws of Print with Online PDF for Accessibility and Inclusive Design

  • Address accessibility barriers in digital content, particularly PDFs.
  • Prioritize user control and accessibility over designer control in content presentation.

Make Materials Accessible to Your Blind Friends

  • Provide accessible formats (braille, audio, large print, electronic) for blind participants in meetings and events.
  • Ensure participation through preferred accessible formats, facilitating full inclusion.


By removing these pervasive barriers of systemic ableism, community leaders and members can create environments where People with Disabilities can thrive socially and contribute meaningfully to their community. Embracing accessibility benefits not only People with Disabilities but also enhances community vibrance, resilience, inclusivity, accessibility, innovation, and overall well-being.


Our focus should be on striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building vibrant, diverse, inclusive, accessible communities!


Striving to remove barriers that prevent us from building a Diverse, Vibrant, Inclusive, Accessible Community!

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