The Ableist Jar

Two hands holding a jar.

What is this?

A bit like a swear jar, the Ableist Jar aims to help discourage people from using ableist language.

You get “fined” every time you use an ableist word. You can self-monitor your own vocabulary, although that can be difficult when you’re not quite self-aware of the words you use. Or others may gently remind you that you’re using ableist language.

Ableist language

Ableist language is using words or phrases that have a negative impact or connotation on or for people with disabilities. The person using ableist language does not usually mean to have a negative impact, but the effect is there nonetheless. Language has power.

These words typically are words that come from a medical or disability context, which have been reused. Some words include:

  • Crazy
    Could be replaced by "wild" or "nonsensical".
  • Insane
    Could be replaced by "ludicrous" or "ridiculous".
  • Lame
    Could be replaced by "boring", or "crappy".
  • Wheelchair bound
    Could be replaced by "wheelchair user".
  • Retard
    Could be replaced by "absurd" or "birdbrained".

For a most excellent list of ableist words and expressions, as well as suggestions for replacements, see Ableism/Language terms to avoid

How does it work?

It works on the honour system. When you notice you’ve used an ableist word, or when someone points it out to you, you can make a $1 donation to the “jar”. Or you can build yourself a tab and come in once a week or a month to put in your jar’s fund as a donation.

Charity benefiting

We are channeling all donations to the OSMI - Open Sourcing Mental Illness. It is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation registered in Indiana, USA, dedicated to raising awareness, educating, and providing resources to support mental wellness in the tech and open source communities. EIN: 81-3587896.

As a lot of the ableist language in the tech sector revolves around mental health, it seems fitting to send the proceeds of the Ableist Jar to them.

I am not affiliated with OSMI.

The following link allows you to put money in the abelist jar, through the OSMI's own donation platform.


How much is in the jar?

It's not about raising funds!

Do note that while the funds are going to a non-profit, this project is not about fundraising. The project is about raising awareness of ableist language. It is also about reducing the use of ableist language to the point where it's not used at all. So in many ways, the goal is to get to an empty jar altogether!