Top 10 Quality Tips To Overcome Ableism in The Workplace
Ableism, like all prejudices, is a sickness that plagues everyone.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depression, Manic Depression, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Autism, and more are some of the most common disorders and diseases that you and (or) your coworkers live with on a daily basis. You wake up with your disorder and deal with the suffocating thoughts of anxiety and depression or the frustrating, physical challenges of moving from bed to bathroom with MS, then you complete small wins– checking off each task one by one on your to-do list, and head to work, only to encounter more adversity in the form of microaggressions, stereotypes, and outright prejudice.
This prejudice does not only affect those who are differently-abled emotionally, but also financially since they experience a wage gap, earning 37% less than their peers who are not disabled. They also have more difficulty finding employment with only an estimated 20% of those with disabilities having jobs. The workplace should never be a space that we or anybody is wary of entering, so today, we’ll be presenting you all with tips and tricks on how to overcome ableism while at work and also how to support your disabled counterparts.
Focus on Diversity
One of your main goals as an individual with a disability should be to find a place that prioritizes merit alongside diversity and inclusivity in their hiring process. The more inclusive a staff is, the higher the chances that your future co-workers are aware of and (or) open to learning about your disability.
The number of employers that actually hire those with disabilities is bleak. Therefore, take the lead and hire those with disabilities; you’ll be at the helm of change in the workplace.
And as noted in this HuffPost documentary, if you do hire a person with a disability, you’re serving yourself, as well as them, since, “the retention rate is really high” for those with disabilities at work.
Listen and Learn
Know that it’s okay to ask questions, BUT, only if they’re not invasive and rude. For instance, if your co-worker has a disability that affects their workmanship and is trying to find a way to be more efficient at their job:
1st Ask them if they would like your support.
2nd Understand how their disability impacts their work.
3rd Be mindful of how you’re communicating with them. Understanding a disability is different than living with one, so never speak to them as if you truly know what they’re going through.
4th Offer advice when you can, but ultimately, listen, learn, and just be there for them.
Educate Those Around You
This can be easier said than done with the number of misinformed people out there who rarely listen to others, but take baby steps with them and you’ll see progress in the long run.
For example, Brooke Grossinger, who is Deaf and an engagement manager for Sorenson Communications, a company that provides technology and services for Deaf and hearing people to connect recognizes that “The more knowledgeable people are in the hearing community, the more accepting they will be.” Thus education is in many ways how you can create a better world for yourself and those like you.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Relying on what you expect from different types of people is prejudice 101. We know that it can be tempting to assume that a co-worker with a disability is:
- In need of constant support and care
However, more often than not, these people are functioning just as well as you. And if they’re in need of your assistance, they will ask you for it.
Build a Support Network
The times when everything seems to be crashing down around will be the times when you’ll need people the most to support you and to be a sounding board for you. These people can be friends or family, but it is helpful to have someone in the workplace to have your back and vouch for you if your name’s being tossed around behind your back.
Avoid Pathologizing Language Like The Plague
The easiest and worst thing you can do is to relate “weird” or “unusual” behavior with mental illness and frailty and fatigue with physical handicaps. This is ableism at its worst, making unreasonable assumptions based on a laymen’s understanding of a disability.
Enjoy The Small Victories
Poet, philosopher, and philanthropist, Gift Gugu Mona says that “[She] may not have avoided certain wounds in my life, but [she] does appreciate these scars because they are a constant reminder of [her] victories.” This is to say that, pain and victory are intertwined, and that while you may be feeling sad, ashamed, or hopeless now, at another time in your life, you will have achieved greatness.
While the TEDx speaker above, Mehrnaz Bassiri, understands that small wins are life-changing because, “once a small win is accomplished, forces are set in motion that are in favor of another small win and another small win,…” Therefore, recognize and appreciate these small things, because they’ll have a domino effect that will lead to greater, more grandiose achievements.
Recognize The Individual
While disabilities can physically and mentally affect the people around you, there is no way to predict how they’ll behave or who they’ll turn out to be. Get to know them as a person first, before you rely on preconceived notions and biases about their handicap.