When you have a disability — whether visible or not — you become consciously aware of just how much “ableism” there is around you.
What’s ableism? It’s a form of prejudice against people with disabilities. In many ways, ableism is ingrained in American culture in ways that many people don’t understand — until they experience a disability for themselves.
Most disabled people encounter ableism in a number of settings, but they should never have to tolerate it in the workplace. Here are some examples of ableism that you may encounter at work:
1. Unwanted touching
When you have a visible disability, some well-meaning folks may attempt to assist you with your daily tasks — without realizing that they’re actually making things harder for you. They may also physically touch you (without asking for your consent) in the process — which is probably something they’d never consider doing to an able-bodied person.
2. Unrealistic expectations
In a culture that tends to be impressed by physical prowess, physical frailness can be seen as a personal failure. This particularly tends to affect people with invisible illnesses.
If your boss or co-workers make comments about how you might “not be cut out for the demands of the job” because their demands are, quite frankly, unreasonable. If you’re expected to simply “tough it out” despite your known medical condition, that could be a violation of your legal rights.
3. Questioning your condition
People with hidden disabilities are often treated with contempt or offered “helpful” advice about how they can “fix” their condition from bosses and co-workers — with the implication being that they could just get over their limiting (and inconvenient-for-the-company) condition if they would just try hard enough.
That may manifest itself in the form of questions like, “Are you sure you need a closer parking spot?” or “Couldn’t you manage your time better so you don’t need to leave so often?”
These are just three examples of workplace ableism, but they’re all ways in which disabled people face discrimination at work. If you’ve tried to resolve the issue on your own and failed, it may be time to discuss your situation with an attorney.