October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Most Americans celebrate these momentous occasions with Halloween candy and costumes, but one company is piloting an innovative new program by requesting that employees disclose whether they are ableist rather than whether they are disabled.
Bradley McFarlin, director of human resources at the company, explained the inspiration for the program. “We are a federal contractor and are therefore required to track and ‘aspire’ for 7% of our workforce to identify as disabled. That is completely out of touch with reality, so we decided to measure something more attainable: if 7% of our employees identify as ableists.”
Jenni Quinn, a human resources representative, shared her exasperation. “We’ve been trying to recruit disabled employees for a long time, like for at least a week each year when the reports are due to the feds. We tried implementing fun labyrinth accommodations processes, holding ‘The R Word: Not Cool’ sensitivity trainings, and creating one wheelchair-accessible space at the outdoor picnic tables. Nothing works.”
Mona Bean, a human resources analyst, added, “At this company, self-care and a work-life balance are priorities. No one would describe our disabled employee representation as anywhere near successful. That doesn’t feel good, so we’re changing our work to align with our values.”
The company’s program has been a huge success, with more than 75% of employees identifying as ableist.
Quinn shared her excitement as she opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate. “I cannot adequately describe how much easier it is to recruit and retain ableists. They are literally everywhere in this company.”
Bean chimed in, “We’re playing around with dividing them into categories of ableists because it’s a bit overwhelming. For instance, a TradAbleist is someone who is ‘kindescending,’ posts about their nonconsensual assistance and introduces eugenics regularly into workplace conversations. It feels so good to be creative in my job again.”
McFarlin is satisfied and hopeful for the future. “This program is a game changer. If we switch who we count, we will consistently be off the charts with success. We could encourage employees to identify as sexist, racist — well, let’s just say it will be easier.”