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Facing ableism in the workplace

Dealing with a disability can present lifelong challenges both personally and professionally. It can seem like a victory when you can make progress in your career despite your disability.

Even when your employer makes reasonable accommodations to support you and your work, you can face people who discriminate against your right to be there. While some people are more subtle about it, others may make blatant and hurtful remarks.

Here’s what you should know about dealing with ableism at work.

What does ableism look like?

Much of the workplace can feel like it is designed around people without disabilities. For example, a building may have an elevator, but it lacks braille so that people with low vision cannot use it without help.

You may also face coworkers framing your disability as inspirational or tragic rather than treating you as an equally valuable team member.

Situations like these can be frustrating and, unfortunately, may feel familiar. However, having faced similar circumstances before does not make them acceptable in the workplace.

Reporting ableism

There are instances where the people around you simply do not realize that their behavior is inappropriate. However, it is not your responsibility to train your coworkers.

When you face ableism in the workplace, you should first talk to your human resources representative. You should speak to them about what situations you are seeing and let them know there are people in the workplace who may not know their comments are inappropriate.

If you continue to face discrimination because of your disability, you should not face the situation alone. You should talk to an experienced professional who can help you advocate for fairness in the workplace.

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