Ableism in sports is a prevalent issue that often goes unacknowledged. Ableism is the discrimination against mentally or physically disabled people. Many disabled athletes report their experiences with ableism and the challenges they’ve faced throughout their athletic career.

Ableism can be expressed in various ways, like infantilization, “superability”, seeing disabled people as helpless or a chore, etc. Recently, disabled people are demanding change, and a way to end the systematic oppression against them.

Disabled athletes have their own individual experiences with abelism, and it often impacts their opportunities to play. They are often undervalued and viewed as inferior athletes in comparison to able bodied athletes. Joey Pagano, a Syracuse graduate, expresses, “It goes back to society viewing disability as an all-or-nothing phenomenon, where disabled people cannot be extremely talented and someone who is talented cannot be disabled” ( On the contrary, some often label disabled athletes as miracles, which also enforces ableist ideals. In Physcology Today, Dr. Kathleen Bogart states, “when athletes with disabilities are portrayed as inspirational, surprising, or tragic, it can perpetuate ableism” (Psychology Today).

For disabled athletes, many don’t see the Paralympics as the end goal. The Paralympics are olympics accessible to people with disabilities, whether it is physical or mental. Although many speak of the benefits and opportunities gained from Paralympics, that is not everyones beliefs. Disabled writer John Leoppky reveals the damage that this can inflict. “The supercrip narrative also creates an assumption among non-disabled people that every disabled person they see in the street must be yearning to go to the Paralympics. But the Paralympics is not a sign-up sheet activity and, more importantly, it’s also radically exclusionary to many with disabilities.” (Rooted in Rights). Although some think that Paralympics are “easy” to be apart of, that is not true; it takes skill and practice just like any other sport.

Overall, disabled voices need to be heard and aplified. Disabled people should be respected as adults, and the questioning of their intellegence is not only inaccurate, but hurtful to many. The false narrative of triumph found in somehow “overcoming” disability further perpetuates the abelism in our society. It is not a lack of ability, it is just finding a different way to succeed. The best thing able bodied and neurotypical people can do for the disabled community is continue to support their needs and accessibility.

Works Cited

am, Lillie Lainoff 1:49, et al. “I’m a Disabled Female Athlete. And I’m Here to Stay.” Yale Daily News, 3 Mar. 2017,

Bogart, Kathleen. “What the Paralympics Can Teach Us about Ableism in Sports | Psychology Today.”, edited by Jessica Shrader, 9 Mar. 2022,

Loeppky, John. “Grappling with Ableism in the Para-Sport Movement.” Rooted in Rights, 4 Aug. 2021,

Pagano, Joey. “Ableism Is Everywhere — Even the Paralympics (Guest Opinion by Joey Pagano).” Syracuse, 17 Sept. 2021,

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