The much anticipated Very Special Disability Episode of Glee, "Wheels" aired last night. And already the rave reviews are flooding in. It's "edgy," it's "a game changer," it's "controversial," it's "moving," it's "thought provoking." Twitter is aflutter with praise.
Did everyone else watch the same episode I watched?
Ableism is a central concept in disability rights. The term was originally popularized by Thomas Hehir, a special education scholar who defined it as "'the devaluation of disability' that 'results in societal attitudes that uncritically assert that it is better for a child to walk than roll, speak than sign, read print than read Braille, spell independently than use a spell-check, and hang out with nondisabled kids as opposed to other disabled kids.'" There are many varied manifestations of ingrained ableism in contemporary society and pop culture, but I see it most often in uncritical use of language based on ableist assumptions - even by speakers or authors who are progressive and who are against ableism as a concept.