Shedding the notion of Ableism

In the required reading “Hoops and Wheels” by Ronald J. Berger, Berger outlines a different form of discrimination: ableism. Ableism is described by the author as able bodied athletes being perceived by people as superior while disabled athletes are viewed as inferior. Berger also analyzes the question “what is sport?” under the sociology lens and concludes by stating that there is no unanimously agreed upon definition of sport. If there is no agreed upon definition of sport, then why are able bodied athletics seen as superior to disabled athletes? How can society shed this notion of ableism?

This notion of ableism as discussed by Berger parallels a similar form of discrimination in sports: sexism. Female athletes do not get nearly the amount of respect that male athletes receive and a large portion of sports fan discredit professional women sport leagues like the WNBA and the LPGA. As a society, we seem to have this stigma towards athletes who are not able bodied males (with a few exceptions). This has resulted in a lack of exposure for high performance disabled sports in both the NCAA and the Paralympics.

Sports like wheelchair basketball are left to tread water as their lack of exposure leaves them with limited sources of revenue and thus little room for growth. People do not understand the difficulty and skill level needed to compete in these “disabled sports” and they will never understand if society continues this notion of ableism. Perhaps we should give these “ableists” an opportunity to participate in disabled sports so they can understand that the difficulty and skill required to perform these sports equals and sometimes exceeds that of traditional sports. More respect needs to be given by society to “disabled athletics” and I believe it all begins with more advertisement and television exposure. Otherwise, we as sport consumers will continue to miss out on some highly entertaining and skilled sports.

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