Ableism in the Workplace

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, ableist slurs (censored), cursing

Hello, dear readers! As I probably forgot to tell all of you, I’m working full time now as a medical editor. And if you have to sell your body, soul, and labor to a bastion of late-stage capitalism to survive–which you pretty much do have to do if you live in the United States–I’ve found a pretty good place to do that. My workplace has a group called DiversiTeam, founded and led by two women of color, aimed at increasing diversity, inclusion, and justice in our workplace. And one of the things I offered to do with DiversiTeam (along with checking our agency style guide for cissexist, heterosexist, and intersexist language) was a presentation on ableism in the workplace.

I work 50-hour weeks, so I’m not keen on doing too much other work outside of that, and since I’m already making this presentation, I thought I would do a blog entry on the same topic: ableism in the workplace. (Note: since this entry came originally from a presentation I’m writing for my workplace, which is an ad agency, this entry is going to be mostly geared toward offices. I could write an entirely different entry on ableism in laboratory environments and, knowing me, probably will at some point.)

I’m going to start with ableist barriers to entering a workplace. I know, not the same thing as ableism in the workplace, but it’s related. There are a couple of common barriers to workplace entry that I see, so I’m just going to list them:

  • Ability to lift 40 lbs
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Ability to stand for long periods of time
  • Driver’s license
  • Inaccessible applications (such as ones that require you to type out your entire fucking resume even though they also are asking for your resume, what in the chicken-fried fuck whyyyyyyyy)

Note: I’m talking about jobs that have nothing to do with lifting, standing, etc, requiring these things. Obviously, if you’re going to do a job that involves driving, it makes sense to require a driver’s license.

Other ableist policies I see that exclude Disabled people from a workplace are:

  • Poor sick day policies
  • Disallowing working from home
  • Timing bathroom breaks or disallowing long bathroom breaks

I actually worked at a place that timed how long you took in the bathroom. Yes, really. And how long it took you to get up and get coffee or a snack. It was fucking ridiculous.

Other ways to make a workplace inaccessible include:

  • Not having accessible bathrooms, elevators, desks, or a cool-down room
  • Allowing people to wear scents or use scent diffusers
  • Clapping during meetings
  • Having only non-plastic straws available
  • Not having hypoallergenic food options at work parties

I’m going to explain a few of these. The not having accessible bathrooms, elevators, or desks is pretty obvious, but it may be less obvious why not having a cool-down room is inaccessible. There are many Disabled people with sensory issues or who could go into sensory overload, and workplaces can get very hectic and overstimulating, and it may not always be feasible to go hide in the bathroom when overstimulated. Also, an overstimulated person shouldn’t have to hide in the bathroom. There should be a space where they can go to cool down and get their bearings.

Next topic: scents. Scents can be migraine or allergy triggers. I love olfactory stimming, but I also support workplaces not allowing perfume, scented beauty products, or essential oil diffusers for accessibility reasons.

Straws. We’ve been here before.

Food. Lots of people have food allergies or illnesses that prevent them from eating certain ingredients. If you’re organizing a work function where there will be food, make sure you ask everyone’s food restrictions. And no, I’m not just talking about people on shitty fad diets. Celiac disease exists.

The rest of my presentation on casual ableism in the workplace is about ableist language, and I give an overview of ableist language in general and offer alternatives. You know, like I did here: https://thisisforyoucarrie.blog/2018/01/07/less-well-known-ableist-language/. Well, more like Autistic Hoya did here: https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html.I will also say that one thing I’ve noticed about ableist language in the workplace is that saneist language is frequently used to describe how busy people are. “It’s a m*dhouse,” “I’m cr*zy busy,” etc. My coworkers also frequently use saneist terms and expressions to discuss their reactions to work, i.e., “that job gave me PTSD,” “I need a Xanax after this week,” “this client is driving me ins*ne,” etc.

I think that’s all I have for now. Many thanks to my wonderful Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Kael, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean. Reminder that if you support me on Patreon, you get to see my blog entries early!

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