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What is Disablism?

People with disabilities face multiple barriers in their daily lives, including discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion.  

Disablism is a term that describes these practices and attitudes, but it is not as widely recognized as other forms of discrimination such as racism or sexism. 

It can take many forms, including verbal abuse, physical violence, exclusion from public spaces, and denial of equal access to resources and opportunities.  

Disablism contributes to the marginalization and stigmatization of people with disabilities, and it perpetuates inequality and injustice in society.  

It is important to note that disablism often intersects with other forms of discrimination such as sexism, racism, and homophobia, exacerbating the impact of these prejudices. 

Understanding the Roots of Disablism 

Disablism has deep roots in our cultural and historical landscape. Disability has been constructed as a social problem, something to be feared, pitied, or normalized.  

The medical model of disability, which focuses on individuals' impairments rather than their abilities, has dominated the discourse around disability for a long time.  

This model has perpetuated the idea that people with disabilities are incomplete, abnormal, or defective, and that their condition needs to be fixed or cured. 

This approach ignores the social and environmental barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in society and seeks to assimilate them to the able-bodied norm.


The Effects of Disablism 

Disablism has profound effects on people with disabilities, their families, and the wider society. It creates and reinforces social inequality, denying people with disabilities their human rights and dignity.  

Disablism contributes to poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion among people with disabilities, making it harder for them to participate fully in society.  

It also contributes to negative physical and mental health outcomes, as discrimination and stigma affect people's self-esteem, self-worth, and sense of belonging.  

Disablism affects the wider society by perpetuating stereotypes and outdated attitudes towards people with disabilities, hindering progress towards a more inclusive and equitable world. 


How Disablism Manifests in the Workplace 

Disablism can manifest in various ways, from subtle forms of microaggressions to more explicit forms of discrimination.  

People with disabilities may encounter disablism in the workplace, education, transportation, housing, and healthcare, among other contexts. Some examples of disablism include: 

  • Exclusion from certain work areas due to the lack of accessibility features such as ramps, audio cues, or alternative formats. 
  • Verbal abuse or mockery based on disability, such as using ableist slurs, making jokes about disabilities, or questioning the legitimacy of someone's disability. 
  • Discrimination in hiring, promotion, or access to training opportunities due to assumptions about their capabilities or perceived risk of accommodation. 
  • Denial of reasonable accommodation requests, such as modifications to the work environment, flexible hours, or assistive technology. 
  • Stereotyping and infantilization of people with disabilities based on their perceived limitations, such as assuming they are dependent, helpless, or incompetent. 


How to Mitigate Disablism 

As part of your organization's diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, it is crucial to address disablism. 

  1. Educate Yourself and Your Team

The first step in mitigating disablism is to educate yourself and your team. This involves learning about different types of disabilities, accommodations, and accessible design.  

You can start by reading books, attending webinars, and consulting with disability organizations.  

Make sure to involve employees with disabilities in these discussions, as they can provide valuable insights and perspectives. 

  1. Assess Your Workplace

To ensure that your workplace is inclusive, it is essential to conduct assessments to identify potential barriers and areas of improvement.  

This could include assessing the accessibility of your physical space, technology, policies, and practices.  

Once you have identified areas for improvement, create a plan of action to address them. This could involve making physical modifications, investing in accessible technology, and providing training for employees. 

  1. Provide Accommodations

Employees with disabilities may require accommodations to perform their job duties effectively.  

Accommodations may include assistive technology, modified work schedules, or accessible facilities.  

It is crucial to make these accommodations available to employees with disabilities and not to ask them to cover the costs themselves.  

Additionally, make sure that accommodations are not seen as a burden or an inconvenience to other employees. 

  1. Foster a Culture of Inclusion

Finally, it is essential to create a culture of inclusion where employees with disabilities feel valued and respected.  

This can be achieved by incorporating disability into your company's DEI efforts and involving employees with disabilities in decision-making processes.  

Encourage open communication and provide training for employees on disability etiquette and language. It is also essential to recognize the contributions of employees with disabilities and celebrate their successes. 

  1. Review, Monitor and Adjust Your Strategies

As you implement your plan of action, it is crucial to review and monitor your strategies to assess their effectiveness continually.  

Solicit feedback from employees with disabilities to see if the changes you have made have positively impacted on their work experiences. Ensure that your team is accountable for mitigating disablism and addressing any issues that arise. 


Use inclusio to Fight Disablism in the Workplace 

Inclusio is a D&I platform that companies can use to launch different DEI initiatives. The information security management system is aligned with the ISO 27001 framework, ensuring secure development practices, training, and policies.