Examples of Disability Microaggressions in Everyday Life

Table 1: Examples of Disability Microaggressions in Everyday Life

Theme Example Message

Denial of personal identity

Occurs when any aspect of a person’s identity other than disability is ignored or denied.

I can't believe you are married.

There is no part of your life that is normal or like mine.

The only thing when I see you is your disability.

Denial of Disability Experience

Occurs when disability related experiences are minimized or denied.

Come on now, we all have some disability

Your thoughts and feelings are probably not real and certainly not important to me.

Denial Of Privacy

Occurs when personal information is required about a disability

Someone asking what happened to you.

You are not allowed to maintain disability information privately.


Occurs when people frantically try to help PWD's.

Someone helps you on to a bus or train even when you need no help.

Someone feels incapable of rescuing you from your disability.

you can't do anything by yourself because you have a disability.

Disability is a catastrophe.

I would rather be dead than to be you.

Secondary Gain

Occurs when a person expects to feel good or be praised for doing something for a PWD.

We're going to raise enough money tonight to get Johnny that new wheelchair.

I feel good and get recognition for being nice to you.

Spread Effect

Occurs when other expectations about a person are assumed due to one specific disability.

Those deaf people are retarded.

Your other senses must be better than mine.

Your disability invalidates you in all areas of life.

You must be special in some way.

Your not normal.

You have "spidey sense".


Occurs when a PWD is treated like a child.

Let me do that for you.

You are not really capable.

I know better than you how to do this.


Occurs when a PWD is praised for almost anything.

You people are so inspiring.

You are so special for living with that.

Second Class Citizen

Occurs when a PWD's right to equality is denied because they are considered to be bothersome, expensive and a waste of time, effort and resources.

People work hard not to make eye contact or to physically avoid a PWD.

a person in a wheelchair waits 15 minutes outside a restaurant for access through the kitchen.She then complains to the manager.

at a staff meeting the question is raised about improving accessibility to the restaurant and the official plan is that changes will be made when more PWD's come to eat.

PWD's are disgusting and should be avoided.

Those people expect too much and are so difficult to work with.They have no patience.

Your rights to equality are not important to me.


Occurs when the sexuality and sexual being is denied.

I would never date someone who uses a wheelchair.

PWD's are not my equal, not attractive and not worthy of being with me.