Who can get it: Anyone, even those who have a disability, if they internalize negative beliefs about it
Common symptoms: Using stereotypes and labels about disability; calling people with disabilities derogatory names; excluding people with disabilities; exploiting people with disabilities; applying negative assumptions about disability in one's daily affairs
Course of treatment: Some ableists may benefit from being around people with disabilities and learning that they are not any different than able bodied people. However, this does not work with everyone.
Complications: Ableism may be accompanied by racism, sexism, and other intolerant behaviors or rigid and inflexible thinking patterns. In such a case, the usual course of treatment has a fairly low success rate.
Effects of disease: Although not fatal, ableism limits and restricts the sufferer's lifestyle, relationships and quality of life. It also affects those who come into contact with the ableist in negative ways, particularly those with disabilities. Although ableism isn't inherited, exposure to it may harm an ableist's children by skewing their attitude toward people with disabilities and increasing their chances of acquiring the disease - therefore it is, unlike a disability, contagious to some degree.
Research: The rather famous Anti-Ableism Antidote Experiment, conducted in the basement of an unnamed Independent Living Center, showed that some ableists improve more rapidly with the use of a placebo "Anti-Ableism" pill that should be taken whenever they leave the house to ward off episodes of ableism. The findings confirmed that 30% of those who took the sugar pill improved over a period of six weeks. However, one gentleman who broke both legs during the six week period improved when he had to crawl into the basement on a daily basis to get the pill since there was no ramp. The scientists concluded that the latter condition taught some empathy to the ableist who initially thought that people who want access have "a sense of entitlement" and did not attribute his improvement to the placebo.
Prognosis: Varies depending on the willingness of the patient to face his/her ableism.
Research papers from other fields:
The Elephant in the Room or The Ableist in the Handicapped Stall, Journal of Restroom Management, Issue 123, Summer 2001
Linking Ableism to A Tiny Gene in the Nasal Cavity: Does Induced 24 Hour Sneezing Help?, Journal of Nasal Cavity Studies, Issue 1, Fall 1999
Ableism At Work: It Doesn't Work, Journal of Employment Mismanagement, Issue 7, Winter 2006
Disabling the Ableist: Why Token Simulations of Disability for Five Minutes Fail , Journal of Abnormal Ableism, Issue 3, Spring Forward
Why Ableists Argue Against the ADA, Journal of Articles with Lots of A's in the Title, Issue 3, Fall 2003
You Don't Really Need That Wheelchair, Do You: 101 Ways to Deny Essential Medical Equipment to People With Disabilities, Journal of Ableism, Issue 9, Summer 2006
[submitted to Blogging Against Disablism Day 2008]