How abled-bodied people trap disabled colleagues.

Navigating attitudes to disability when the disability isn’t visible can be impossible

Other people’s attitudes can trap disabled people as effectively as locking the only door by which they could leave a room. People, especially “nice” people, can find it hard to believe that anyone would be mean to a disabled person. Wrong; the most vulnerable are always the easiest targets – take away their reasonable adjustments, and they won’t be able to do their job properly or, in many cases, safely at all.

Imagine, if you will, someone who is a wheelchair user and someone vandalises that wheelchair rendering it unusable – that disabled person is now trapped, totally dependent on the good nature and awareness of the able-bodied people around them. Now imagine someone with a disability that isn’t obvious; a condition where the stress of retraining could cause a relapse that could worsen their condition. So they are told they will be mentored to mitigate that stress. Except when it comes to it, the mentor refuses to mentor on spurious grounds. So the disabled person isn’t mentored until the last minute by the disabled person finding someone else willing to mentor them. However, it’s too late; a relapse is already in progress. The disabled person should have formally complained – they already complained to get the training above agreed in the first place. In cases I’ve had, like the one above, I’ve found that the disabled person often just gives up. Finding the energy to fight in a workplace that is hostile and resentful about the disabled person being made “a special case of ” takes energy and confidence that the disabled person no longers has. All it takes is one resentful, spiteful, ignorant person and that disabled person might just as well be locked in that room.

Companies need separate HR in charge of the implementation and monitoring of reasonable adjustments – someone on the inside, the disabled person can turn to, when reasonable adjustments are scuppered.


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