Disability Microaggressions — AKA “Ableist things people say”

Yes, all of these have actually happened to me personally

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC
8 min readOct 17, 2019


Black and white neon sign that says “No stupid people beyond this point”
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Authors note: Because of Medium’s refusal to address its accessibility issues for both authors and readers, I’ve moved my last three years of blogs to Substack. Please sign up there for notices of all new articles. Also, I will be updating older articles (like this one) and the updates will only be published on Substack. Thank you for your continued readership and support.

What is a microaggression?

A microaggression is an indirect, subtle, possibly unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group. Usually these take the form of statements, actions, incidents, or exclusions. Being excluded from an event because of what the host perceives you can or can’t do is almost always a microaggression.

  • I’ve been excluded from walking meetings, because I can’t walk.
  • At one job, I wasn’t invited to important meetings that happened 4:30 or later because it was assumed I was more interested in taking care of my children than attending a late meeting
  • I am currently excluded from traveling overseas for my employer to locations where accessible building leases were not procured

After 50+ years of dealing with this, I can tell you that microaggressions are mentally very wearing. And especially for people with disabilities, they don’t seem to be slowing down or even becoming unacceptable.

What is Ableism?

Ableism is to disabilities what racism is to people of color. Ableism is, in short, the expression of a discriminatory preference for someone without a disability. Ableism assigns inferior worth to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities by devaluing and limiting their potential. Ableism includes things like belittling the need for mobility devices, accessible parking cards, assistive technology or interpreters, the need to take medication, doctor’s appointments, or any other headaches that people with disabilities have to deal with to be equal that people without disabilities typically don’t have a clue about.

You are using that…



Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact 2022. UX Collective Author of the Year 2020. Disability Inclusion SME. Sr Staff Accessibility Architect @ VMware.