Disability Related Microaggressions


  1. What are Disability Related Microaggressions?
  2. What do Disability Related Microaggressions look like?
  3. How to recognise Disability Related Microaggressions
  4. Disability Micro Affirmative Behaviours

1. What are Disability Related Microaggressions?

Disability related microaggressions are a form of discrimination and ableism.

To get a better understanding of disability related microaggression it is important to understand ableism...

What is ableism?

Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people who have disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. It can take the form of ideas and assumptions, stereotypes, attitudes and practices, physical barriers in the environment or larger scale oppression. 

Ableism is often unintentional, and most people are completely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.

Ableism devalues and limits the potential of people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.

Examples of ableism

Belittling the need for:

  • Mobility devices
  • Accessible parking
  • Assistive technology or interpreters
  • The need to take medication
  • Doctor’s appointments

Or any other considerations that people without disabilities typically don’t need to think about, but people with disabilities do.

Knowing someone with a disability or living with a disability yourself does not make you immune to ableism.

2. What do Disability related Microaggressions look like?

In addition to the behaviour highlighted above, Disability related micro-aggressive behaviours can be verbal, non-verbal or environmental.


3. How to recognise Disability related Microaggressions

We've collected some examples of verbal Disability related Microaggressions, with an explanation of why these comments or questions can be offensive, insulting or insensitive

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4. Disability Micro Affirmative Behaviours

You have a duty to ensure that you’re not acting in a discriminatory manner, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Take positive micro-affirmative actions to be disability inclusive and prevent microaggressions. Encourage an inclusive culture which is understanding and open to education. Provide support and comfort for individuals and create new positive behaviours.

Everyday micro-affirmations

  • Be considerate of how information is processed and received by a neurodivergent person and adapt appropriately
  • Be more considerate in the language you use to describe disabilities. Use terminology such as “Neurodiverse” or “Neurodivergence”, and “learning differences” rather than “learning disabilities”
  • When considering an adjustment for an individual, ask could this adjustment be applied to all or benefit the whole room? For example, if someone needs arms on their chairs could all the chairs have arms?
  • Be mindful of how neurodivergent individuals or someone with learning differences respond to or understand the world; adapt your behaviours accordingly
  • Have a greater empathy for someone with a learning difference or neurodivergence, and how they undertake tasks
  • Have a better understanding about stressors for neurodivergent staff. For example, last minute ward rota changes can disrupt coping mechanisms and place individuals under unnecessary pressure
  • Be considerate of how information is processed and received by someone who is neurodivergent; adapt appropriately
  • Consider accessibility or adjustments for staff members across all abilities when considering workflow changes.

Download our posters

In addition to the behaviour highlighted above, Disability related micro-aggressive behaviours can be verbal, non-verbal or environmental.

Download our posters below, on recognising Disability related Microaggressions, and examples of Disability related Microaggressions.

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