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Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Ability

Definitions and Resources

What is Ableism?

Ableism is prejudice plus power; anyone of any degree of physical or non-physical ability can have/exhibit ability-based prejudice, but in North America (and globally), societally enabled or nondisabled people have the institutional power, therefore Ableism is a systematized discrimination, antagonism, or exclusion directed against disabled people based on the belief that ‘normal ability’ is superior. Ableism involves both denying access to disabled people and exclusive attitudes of nondisabled persons.

An ableist society is said to be one that treats nondisabled individuals as the standard of ‘normal living’, which results in public and private places and services, education, and social work that are built to serve 'standard' people, thereby inherently excluding those with various disabilities. (from

Disabled folks can be agents of ableism as well (particularly when acting as representatives of abelist systems, such as higher education) by perpetuating the notion of enabled or nondisabled superiority and using it to discriminate against other disabled people. For example, a wheelchair-enabled hiring manager may eliminate a chronically ill candidate from a job pool because he feels the candidate, though well-qualified, will not be reliable or have the capacity for the job demands due to their illness.

Material excerpted from

Accessibility focuses on how a disabled person accesses or benefits from a site, system or application. (n.d.). Accessibility Basics. Usability.gov 

Ability, Disability and Ableism: A Reading List

Works on Ableism

Works on Ability & Disability

Library Services for People with Disabilities

What We Do

We strive to offer a welcoming environment to all of our users. We recognize that not all materials associated with library services are accessible to all. Therefore, we are intent on providing assistance to promote accessibility, especially in the area of research and reference services. Accessibility technology with an emphasis on blind and low vision is available in our Accessibility Resource Study Room (Room 102 in Founders Memorial Library).

We welcome your feedback and suggestions on how we can build a more accessible, seamless and transparent Library environment.


Kimberly Shotick
Phone: 815-753-5290 

Sarah McHone-Chase
Phone: 815-753-9860 

NIU Disability Resource Center (DRC)

Disability Resource Center

The Disability Resource Center (DRC) offers guidance, services and resources to help you succeed at NIU and will work with you to determine your needs and develop a plan to meet them. Come prepared to discuss issues related to accessibility that may impact your success at NIU.

Campus Life Building, Suite 180
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
815-753-9570 (fax)

Report an Accessibility Barrier

Accessibility barriers are factors in an individual's environment that limit their functioning. There are several different types of accessibility barriers and solutions. At NIU, we seek to collaborate with university and community partners to address and/or remove accessibility barriers on campus. We encourage you to report any accessibility barriers you encounter.

Researching Ability, Disability, and Ableism


Videos on Ability, Disability, & Ableism