Aug 16, 2023, 4:00 am UTC

3 min

Created By

How to avoid microaggressions

Microaggressions are subtle, often unintentional acts or statements that convey negative or biased assumptions about marginalized groups. They are a form of discrimination. And they matter because they can cause harm and discomfort to others, especially people who hold more than one marginalized identity such as disabled women.

One study found the most frequent microaggressions experienced by disabled women are:

  • Someone downplays the effects of disability on their life
  • Someone assumes they need help
  • They are praised for doing almost anything
  • Their right to equality is denied

The study also noted two other microaggressions experienced by disabled women: Their symptoms are sometimes not believed by medical professionals, and they are told they look too healthy or too pretty to have a disability.

How can you avoid committing microaggressions and using ableist language?

This infographic offers some general advice.

Infographic on how to avoid committing microaggresions

Here are some additional tips on how to avoid committing disability microaggressions. Use them to examine the stereotypes and biases you may hold that can perpetuate discrimination and exclusion and create a more inclusive society that respects and values the experiences of everyone.

Educate yourself: Take the time to learn about different disabilities, their impact on individuals, and the language that is respectful and inclusive. The more you know, the better equipped you'll be to communicate effectively.

Listen actively: Pay attention to how people with disabilities describe themselves and their experiences. Respect their terminology and language choices, and avoid making assumptions.

Focus on abilities: Instead of defining someone solely by their disability, highlight their skills, talents, and achievements. Treat them as you would anyone else, recognizing their unique strengths.

Avoid unsolicited praise: While encouragement is well-intentioned, praising someone excessively for their daily actions can come across as patronizing. Treat individuals with disabilities with the same respect you would offer anyone else.

Respect privacy: Don't pry into someone's medical history or ask intrusive questions about their disability. Respect their privacy and only engage in such discussions if they initiate them.

Advocate for accessibility: Support initiatives that promote accessibility and inclusivity, whether it's in your workplace, community, or personal relationships.

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