People with disabilities are stereotypically portrayed as being less able – particularly when it comes to employment opportunities. However, we often forget that they are still perfectly able in many other ways! Despite this, & despite being such a diverse group (what does a deaf person share with a wheelchair user?) they are usually referred to, collectively, as ‘the disabled’. But people with different disabilities and different challenges all have a key thing in common – the positive shared experience of the ability to overcome obstacles that they face each day.          

’Diversability’ is a term I recently came across referring to a new perspective on disability – the view that the disabled are in fact diversely able, and the one thing they have in common is that they are able to find solutions to the difficulties their disabilities present. In fact there is a campaign dedicated to getting this new term integrated into our vocabulary (see ).


The DDA & Equality Act may make practical provisions to address disability discrimination in the workplace, but what is far more difficult to change is people’s individual views & assumptions. Like the "Does he take sugar?" attitude that so many people have – assuming that anyone with a physical restriction is also restricted mentally. Or people who generally feel (& act) awkward & uncomfortable around anyone with a disability (or mental health issues), not knowing what to do or say – or assuming that everyone else at work will be the same way & using that to justify not hiring someone. Which just perpetuates the whole negative situation! Employers also often justify not hiring someone by assuming that accommodating  someone’s needs will take too much money, time or effort – forgetting that the whole point of ‘reasonable adjustments’ is that the money/time/effort is, well, reasonable.


All of this contributes to creating even more barriers that people with differing abilities have to climb, in order to contribute to the economy & tearn a living doing things they are not only able to do, but may actually be excellent at. Wheelchair users may be superb call centre operators; deaf people may be excellent computer programmers; you get the idea! But thanks to some people’s narrow-mindedness, they may never get the chance to prove it.


And these ridiculous attitudes demonstrated by some employers are not just limited to people with permanent or long-term conditions, but also to employees who are temporarily injured. I once knew someone who was off work for 6 weeks with a broken wrist, being bored to death sat on her sofa watching daytime TV all day as she didn’t feel she should be going out anywhere while on sick leave. Yet as an office worker, her only restriction was having to type one-handed &  get someone else to make her a cup of tea. She was still more than capable of using the phone, contributing in meetings, thinking coherently & basically doing every other aspect of her desk-job. But her muppet employer preferred to spend a fortune on sick pay & temp cover instead of just making a few accommodations. They were also terrified in case she had a worse accident as a result of her wrist in plaster, seeing her as some sort of liability – again, another misplaced concern by employers regarding people with disabilities.


So, to tackle disability discrimination, we need to start with changing the misguided, often ignorant views & opinions of individuals. Look around your organisation – who do you need to start with?!