Is there a bias against disability in your Unconscious Bias training?

Disabilities are largely ignored in most unconscious bias training. Here’s why that is important and how to fix it.

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Blurry picture of 4 individuals wearing business clothes and a pair of eyeglasses

What is Unconscious Bias?

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, if you live in the US you have probably at least heard the term “unconscious bias” and perhaps even taken unconscious bias training. Unconscious bias (also sometimes referred to as “implicit bias”) is a term used to categorize social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.

Unconscious Bias Training

Courses on unconscious bias are a standard introductory form of diversity training. “See, we care, we have unconscious bias training” shout people in HR and D&I from the rooftops. But most companies run #Diversish D&I programs. Being #Diversish is defined as running diversity & inclusion programs that don’t include disabilities as an equal component to LGBTQ, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, and other “protected status” categories. In #Diversish programs, disability either doesn’t factor into unconscious bias training at all at all, or if it does, isn’t done particularly effectively or sometimes even respectfully.

How should unconscious bias training incorporate disability?

Even the best unconscious bias training isn’t going to help bias against people with disabilities if it doesn’t raise the fact that this type of bias occurs, preferably in a relevant and respectful manner. Think about the following elements when formulating your unconscious bias training solution:

Things to do outside of training to reduce Unconscious bias against people with disabilities

To build a culture and workplace that successfully includes employees with disabilities, the first place to start is assessing and remediating all internal tools, especially those being acquired or provided by third parties.

  • Does your organization require everyone to go through a single travel service? If yes, it is hard to state that inclusion is at the core of your corporate mission if you use Amex Global, their tools don’t work for people with substantial vision loss or people who can’t use mice.

Follow up post training and assess assess assess

Diversity is a subject that is usually inadequately followed up on or assessed, despite many well-established objective and subjective measurement mechanisms that are available. The following areas and types of surveys should be done:

  1. Employee engagement and organizational health: make sure you look at each dimension you are measuring from three perspectives: corporate average, average for employees who belong to one or more diverse groups, and average for employees who don’t belong to any diverse groups.
  2. Employee lifecycle: selection, recruitment, onboarding, training, performance , and exit interviews (with particular attention to turnover rates)
  3. Employee resource groups feedback: ERG members will be your most engaged employees. Examine how connected they feel to the enterprise, and solicit input from non-ERG members to learn why they don’t participate.
  4. Efforts outside D&I: this would include efforts like supplier diversity, ICT accessibility, and community outreach.


For unconscious bias training to be effective, attendees need to have a deep and profound understanding it at the end of it for all subjects, not just the subjects that they have an interest in or natural empathy for. Unconcious bias training needs to have a comprehensive agenda that avoids being #Diversish by including people with disabilities equally with all other topics being addressed.

Written by

Accessibility Architect @ VMware. W3C Silver, ITI & IAAP GLC committees. Degrees in CS, law, business. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter.

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