Mapping Ableism: A Two-Dimensional Model of Explicit and Implicit Disability Attitudes

  • Carli Friedman PhD, Director of Research, The Council on Quality and Leadership


Nondisabled people often experience a combination of negative and positive feelings towards disabled people. There are often large discrepancies between what nondisabled and disabled people view as positive treatment towards disabled people, with disabled people often viewing nondisabled people’s actions as inappropriate, despite nondisabled people believing they had good intentions. Since disability attitudes are complex, both explicit (conscious) attitudes and implicit (unconscious) attitudes need to be measured. Different combinations of explicit and implicit bias can be organized into four different categories: symbolic prejudice, aversive prejudice, principled conservative, and truly low prejudiced. To explore this phenomenon, we analyzed secondary explicit and implicit disability prejudice data from approximately 350,000 nondisabled people and categorized people’s prejudice styles according to an adapted version of Son Hing et al.’s (2008) two-dimensional model of racial prejudice. Findings revealed most nondisabled people were prejudiced in the aversive ableism fashion, with low explicit prejudice and high implicit prejudice. These findings mirror past research that suggests nondisabled people may believe they feel positively towards disabled people but actually hold negative attitudes which they disassociate or rationalize. Mapping the different ways ableism operates is one of the first of many necessary steps to dismantle ableism.

Author Biography

Carli Friedman, PhD, Director of Research, The Council on Quality and Leadership

PhD, Director of Research, The Council on Quality and Leadership