Disability Awareness Month: Ableism and ally-ship in the workplace 

For people with disabilities, navigating a society constructed by and for people considered to have “typical” abilities can be a constant battle, and one that further entrenches the discrimination they face. 

According to the 2010 census, nearly 1 in 5 Americans experience disability. Some people’s disabilities are visible to others and include physical disabilities such as blindness, deafness, prosthetic limbs, or wheelchair usage. Other people’s disabilities may be less visible or not visually apparent at all, such as behavioral health conditions (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress), Traumatic Brain Injuries, developmental and intellectual disabilities, migraines, or cancer.  

Despite the wide variety of disabilities and the high percentage of Americans with disabilities, disability discrimination remains widespread and entrenched. This is partly due to what is called “ableism.” 

What is ableism? 

Ableism refers not just to the discrimination experienced by people with disabilities, but also the reinforcement of past and current practices and constructs that were created by and for individuals perceived as “typically” abled.  

Examples of ableism in the workplace include using language that perpetuates stereotypes, assuming that a job applicant with a disability may be less qualified for the position they have applied for, designing buildings without ramps, bathrooms, or adequate space for wheelchair users, questioning why an employee with mental health conditions may need extended time off work. 

Many people are working hard to reduce ableism approaches and move King County toward a more disability-inclusive environment both in physical and attitudinal approaches within King County. Visit this Balanced You blog post to learn how you can support this work by breaking down ableism and becoming an ally alongside people with disabilities.