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To create order and structure within workplaces and communities, well-intentioned policies may overlook how they affect those around us. This is particularly true for those holding positions of influence, where the balance between organisational needs and empathetic flexibility is delicate. The concept of ableism—a set of beliefs or practices that devalue people with disabilities—might not be immediately recognisable, but its effects are far-reaching.

Ableism can manifest subtly, through inflexible work hours that don’t account for varying abilities or rental policies that don’t consider the necessity of assistance animals. It’s a system that places individuals without disabilities at the centre, often sidelining those who experience the world differently. Yet, ableism doesn’t only impact people with disabilities—it affects us all.

Understanding ableism is the first step towards change. It begins with recognising that this form of discrimination is not just about the absence of ramps or hearing aids—it’s also about an overarching societal attitude that needs to change. Here are 5 actions you can take to combat ableism in your daily life:

Adopt a Proactive Approach to Inclusivity
If you’re hiring, implement policies that presume every candidate could benefit from accommodations, such as flexible hours or remote work options. This forward-thinking approach ensures that all employees, regardless of whether they disclose a disability, can work in a way that best suits their needs.

Normalise Pets and Assistance Animals in Housing
As a property owner or manager, embracing a pet-friendly policy and explicitly outlining the tenant’s responsibility for any damage can foster more inclusivity. With UK legislation awaiting royal assent that will change the stance on pet ownership in rental properties, adhering to pet-free advertisements may no longer be feasible. Adapting to these evolving laws now can simplify the process for tenants who depend on assistance animals, making it easier for everyone involved.

Educate Yourself and Others
Take the initiative to learn about the social model of disability, which argues that society’s barriers, not an individual’s impairment, cause disability. Share this knowledge in your community and workplace to foster understanding and reduce stigma.

Embrace Developments in Assistive Technologies
Consider the role of AI and assistive tools for neurodivergent people who need them for language interpretation. Restrictive policies on these technologies may hinder individuals with writing and comprehension difficulties. Opt for guidelines that promote responsible use of AI tools, rather than outright bans, to foster inclusivity and reflect forward-thinking organisational values.

Challenge Your Assumptions
Before you question the person without a visible disability using a disabled parking space, pause. Recognise the prevalence of invisible disabilities and choose understanding over judgment.

These actions are just a starting point, but they carry the power to create ripples of change towards a more equitable society. Each step we take dismantles a piece of the ableist structures around us, paving the way for a future where every individual is valued and given a chance to thrive.