Ableism and Saneism in the workplace

Race Reflections AT WORK

21-08-2023 • 19 mins

In today's episode Race Reflections' Associate Disruptor Simone reflects on the issues and experiences around disability, mental health and neurodivergence in the workplace.

They begin by defining the terms/identities/concepts ableism, disablism, saneism, visible/invisible disability, mental illness, neurodivergence and intersectionality. Then they consider how many of these terms overlap and are often umbrella terms for each other, and that they depend on the people/institutions that are defining them who hold the power to define what is typical and what is done to those who aren't typical.

Neurodivergence, disability and mental illness are common human experiences and should not be pathologised. They are also tied into white norms and to other forms of, and systems of, marginalisation, normalisation and oppression.

Then they consider how neurodiverse, disabled and mentally ill people often have no access to "legitimate" work, highlighting how prior to the workforce these groups have often experienced oppression and alienation at home, in school and in higher education, a model that continues into adult life. How they can be seen and framed as troubled/troublesome and how that becomes criminalisation and pathologisation. Not having access to "legitimate" work also means barriers to accessing housing, food and healthcare.

Workplaces are set up around specific assumptions around work, productivity and success. These assumptions are within society and ourselves as much as they are within workplaces. By making them we miss other ways of being and viewing these things. Inclusive workplaces have a positive impact for all employees as they put the focus on the needs and different approaches of everyone.

Simone ends by talking about the practical ways that workplaces can redesign themselves to be truly (and not just legally) inclusive places that accommodate multiple ways of working and crucially recruit a wider range of workers with different strengths and needs.

Simone's website:

Subscribe, rate and review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcasts.

To send us your queries, questions and dilemmas please email