The Violence of Technicism: Ableism as Humiliation and Degrading Treatment

Campbell, F. K. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Policy and legal responses to social inclusion for disabled people have typically taken the road of reasonable adjustment and the promotion of accessibility standards predicated on the basis of a social contract that espouses assimilation, leaving the norms of ableism not just intact but ensuring the primacy of ablement as a naturalised worldview. What is erased in this encounter with ableism is a rendering of ableism as a harm; a harm that in fact induces ‘crisis’ and erases disabled peoples’ experiences of humiliation and degradation. Social exclusion by way of geographical ‘lock-outs’, has a rippling effect with hostile and humiliating inaccessible environments communally impacting, all of us – as strangers and friends observe someone else’s humiliation and exclusion. Inaccessible environments make and position disabled people as problematic bystanders – we, disabled who look in, simply imagine another possibility or because of the degree of inaccessibility we become alienated from organisational environments. Inaccessible relations hurt and as such constitute an assault on beingness and shape the ontological character of being considered fully human. I have used the term onto-violence to capture these effects that literally seep into the interior spaces of a ‘cast out’ person’s beingness (ontological framing) producing instant and longer-term defilements of the body and mind.

This chapter examines a number of cases from European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that deal with ‘ontoviolence’ and how the reasoning in those cases has predominately been ignored by authorities in the UK in their planning of diversity landscapes as well as a negation of the impact of negotiating inaccessible environments. Increasingly technological and disease markers produced by the pharma-industrial complexes are limiting the remit of the ‘normal’ as captured by the concept of ‘health’, thus increasing the pool of ‘abnormal’ populations outside of the state of the general population using standardised services and processes. Unclear adjudications of ‘health’ in turn shape differentiations of healthy and unhealthy/chronically ill/special needs cohorts. These ECtHR cases contain rich wisdom about ableism and its relationship to humiliation. As a strategy of resistance, it is integral to understand the processes and practices of ableism, not only to foreground the violence of ableism, but also to develop tactics of intervention that expose and disrupt pervasive ablement in setting such as universities and government.
Period23 Mar 2018
Held atUniversity College London, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • studies in ableism
  • academic ableism
  • disability studies