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Capacitism: discrimination against functional diversity

Capacitism: discrimination against functional diversity

May 4, 2024

There is increasing awareness of the different types of discrimination that certain groups and minorities face in their day to day lives. For example, racism and machismo are examples of ways of thinking that result in unequal treatment of certain people for being as they are.

But there are other concepts that refer to the ways in which it is currently discriminated. For example, the capacitismo, referred to the unequal treatment that people with functional diversity receive , many times stigmatized and treated from the prejudices to be considered disabled.

  • You may be interested: "The 16 types of discrimination (and their causes)"

What is capacitism?

Capacitism is that form of ideological and material discrimination that is directed against people who are considered disabled. That is to say, that capacitism refers to the prejudices and stereotypes that lead to disparage people with functional diversity, but is also reflected in laws and material structures (architectural, urban, etc.) that suppose a barrier for this group.


That is, that capacitism it is both ideological and institutional , because it is expressed through thoughts but also through designs and forms of organization fixed and legitimized.

The paradigm of functional diversity

The idea of ​​capacitism is born from a new perspective that addresses the way in which socially and politically welcomes people considered disabled. This new paradigm is based on the concept of functional diversity, which is used as a substitute for "disability".

And what is functional diversity? It is an idea used to avoid stigmatization of disabled people . These, instead of being seen as "broken", incomplete human beings or, in short, "erroneous bodies", are considered representatives of another kind of functionality, neither better nor worse than what was considered "normal" (the which, from the perspective of functional diversity, ceases to be considered as such).


In this way, capacistism points out as a fundamental problem the generalized assumption of the idea that people with functional diversity are a deviation from normality and that, at the same time, they do not have the same rights as other human beings.

Capacitism and the halo effect

One of the psychological phenomena that explain how capacitism works is that of the halo effect.

The halo effect is a tendency to value people based on one of their characteristics and extending to the wholeness of his person the value judgment that has been made on that initial feature.

That is why, for example, that a person who gives much importance to stereotypes linked to politics can come to value neatly a behavior in a person dressed in a certain way (for example, with dreadlocks) and, on the other hand, value positively that same behavior in another individual dressed in another way.


The halo effect hijacks our ability to evaluate in a reasonable and exhaustive way the different nuances and characteristics of a person , and causes us to simply extend to the whole our opinion about a specific feature that has caught our attention. In addition, there are indications that the halo effect may be present in most humans.

In this way, people with functional diversity are labeled by their biological characteristics and their point of view is minimized or considered an emanation of their condition of disabled individuals. The capacitismo is reflected in part from the typecasting: whatever is done, that will be interpreted as a direct consequence of the fact of being disabled, which makes you see less humanity of these people. And this, of course, has a very negative effect on the self-esteem of many.

  • Related article: "What is the Halo Effect?"

How to create a more inclusive society

To stop the capacitism, mental health professionals from all areas (also clinical psychology) emphasize the need to not attribute all the problems of a disabled person to their individuality , as if it were a painful experience that should be carried out in silence. As an alternative, a bio-psycho-social approach is proposed that takes into account the importance of the context.

For example, tetraplegia does not generate so many problems if society adapts to it by creating access for wheelchairs and avoiding architectural barriers . Occasionally, the concept of disability can be used as an excuse to bring to the private and individual problems that must be addressed collectively.

Thus, attention to disabled people does not only consist of treatments focused on the individual, but also on social education and networking so that the context also adapts to the individual, and not just the other way around. Eliminate capacitism implies a change in awareness and also coordinated action of several people who intend to change institutions publicly and privately.


Manifesto Freak (May 2024).


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