Trump’s Remarks About Serge Kovaleski Speak to a Bigger Problem

Trump’s Remarks About Serge Kovaleski Speak to a Bigger Problem

Words matter, especially when uttered by people of power and influence. This impact was on full display in 2015 when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump mocked journalist Serge Kovaleski who has a disability called arthrogryposis. The incident led to countless stories, reports, and impassioned commentaries, but what lessons did we learn? 

Donald Trump imitating people with disabilities is a quintessential example of ableism. When Trump mocks a reporter with a disability, he defines that person by their condition and implies they’re inferior to people without disabilities. It’s an uphill climb for people with disabilities, even in an age where the demand for inclusivity is only rising. 

But being different doesn’t make a person any less capable, as evidenced by Serge Kovaleski‘s exceptional journalism career. 

Great Journalists Should Be Known for Their Craft

Trump’s impersonation overshadowed incredible things about Serge Kovaleski, a world-renowned journalist. And this perfectly sums up why ableism, particularly from those in power, can negatively shape public perception of people with disabilities. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, Kovaleski’s prodigious accomplishments include a Pulitzer Prize for covering the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal and a Polk Award for his exceptional military reporting. 

But instead of gaining rightful recognition for his professional expertise, Trump’s comments shined the media spotlight on Kovaleski’s disability. And once an issue is politicized and publicized, what matters most gets lost in the information crossfire. In short, “Trump Mocks a Disabled Reporter” shouldn’t be Kovaleski’s life-story headline. Instead, his journalistic excellence and personal attributes define him as a person, not the disability inaccurately characterized in Trump’s speech.  

Ableism is more pervasive and damaging than you think because it often comes with the best intentions, as you’ll learn below.  

More on The Impacts of Ableism

Research shows that people with disabilities are 300% more vulnerable to depression. They also have a considerably higher inclination for elevated levels of anxiety. Unfortunately, many people falsely believe these facts are directly related to the challenges of disability itself. But society’s perception and treatment of disabled people primarily cause these mental health challenges

What are some specific examples? First, people with disabilities aren’t here to be your source of inspiration. Praising them simply because of their disability ignores the other characteristics that make them who they are. In a misguided attempt to paint them as heroic, this narrow-minded perspective inadvertently conveys pity, the last thing any disabled person wants. 

Second, there are annoying back-handed compliments that slight people with disabilities, despite their good intentions. Sugarcoating their condition and calling them “people of determination” praises them for simply existing, which is insulting for obvious reasons. Phrases like “you are so brave” and “I could never live like that” are derogatory since they imply a sad and unfulfilling life. Again, this is all evidence that public views and perceptions can be a detriment to the mental health of people with disabilities.

Fortunately, emerging technology is the driving force behind inclusivity in the digital world. Read on to learn more.

How Digital Accessibility Deters Ableism

Digital accessibility makes the online experience equal for everyone. It applies assistive tech tools, services, and support systems to ensure people with disabilities can use and enjoy websites and related devices to their fullest extent. There are no public announcements and misguided compliments to stand in their way—nothing that unnecessarily calls out their disability—just equal access and usage of the digital universe, where everyone increasingly thrives in the modern world. 

But technology is only effective with widespread adoption, and that means more organizations of every kind must integrate digital accessibility. It’s an easy choice considering the obvious ethical obligations and potential legal penalties.  

Words are undeniably powerful, but change requires actionable steps and a measured, collective effort with its heart in the right place. 

Conclusion: Turning Awareness into Action

Did Donald Trump make fun of a disabled person? He claims otherwise but appeared to do just that. Presidential nominees spend a lot of time getting support from different groups. As a result, they alter public perception and spark conversations when they make certain public statements (e.g., Donald Trump making fun of people with disabilities)

How we treat people with disabilities should be a national conversation, but let’s ensure the discussion advances the cause of inclusivity. And let’s avoid, on the other hand, a public discourse that emphasizes their limitations and ignores the many attributes that define them individually. For example, a person should never be categorized solely by race, ethnicity,  gender, or sexual orientation. The same is true for people with disabilities. As the most significant global minority group (over one billion people), it’s time they get recognized for what they accomplish instead of what we perceive as their limitations. 

There are millions of people living with both chronic and short-term disabilities, not just in America but around the world. Starting a national dialogue about why it’s essential to focus on inclusivity is a great way to bring more awareness to the issue. Hopefully, this awareness will lead to action.

UserWay Deters Ableism Through Pioneering Tech

You can support inclusivity without accessibility, whether it’s physical or digital. UswerWay has the digital world covered. Learn how UserWay’s AI-powered tools help companies worldwide increase digital accessibility and meet regulatory conformance. Services also include commission-driven affiliate and partnership programs and the only attorney-led legal support system of its kind.

Ready to learn more? Schedule time with a UserWay accessibility expert today.  

Common FAQs

What is Ableism?

Ableism defines people by their disability and implies they need fixing.  It categorizes this population segment as inferior, perpetuating stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations that inaccurately shape public perception. 

What are Negative Examples of Ableism?

  • Non-compliance with regulatory laws like the WCAG
  • School segregation of students with disabilities 
  • Restraining or secluding to control students with disabilities
  • Placing people with disabilities in institutions

What’s the Difference Between Ableism and Disablism?

Ableism discriminates in favor of non-disabled people, while disablism only discriminates against them.

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