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Attitudinal Awareness

Negative attitudes and stereotypes about disability can hinder inclusion for all.

Often, the biggest barrier to workplace accessibility is not architectural in nature, but rather attitudinal.  Employees may have misconceptions about people with disabilities and the work they can do. Examples of such attitudinal barriers include:

  • Inferiority: The employee is seen as a “second-class citizen.”
  • Pity: People feel sorry for the employee and are patronizing as a result.
  • Hero Worship: People consider a person with a disability living independently to be “special.”
  • Ignorance: The employee is dismissed as incapable because of his or her disability.
  • Multi-sensory affect: People assume that the employee’s disability affects his or her other senses.
  • Stereotypes: People make both positive and negative generalizations about disabilities.
  • Backlash: People believe the employee is being given an unfair advantage because of his or her disability.
  • Denial: People may not believe that hidden disabilities are legitimate and therefore do not require accommodations.
  • Fear: People are afraid they will offend an employee with a disability by doing or saying the wrong thing and, as a result, will avoid the employee.

Employers can help break down attitudinal barriers in the workplace by engaging employees in discussions about disability and providing training to increase employees’ perspectives and understanding. Often, local disability service providers offer disability etiquette education and training. Additional resources include the Job Accommodation Network’s Disability Awareness to Increase Your Comfort, Confidence, and Competence, an online training with handouts that can be used for individual or group training, and the Campaign for Disability Employment’s PSA toolkits.

For more information, visit the Working Together page or take the Working Together online training course. The Creating Inclusive Workplaces page offers additional resources.