Online events: unconscious bias and disability

Unconscious biases and cognitive distortions have a significant influence on our everyday decisions as well as a negative effect on people with disabilities especially in the workplace. The myAbility Economic Forum addressed this topic in two online events. Together with experts and partner companies they engaged in a discussion about how anti-bias strategies can lead to more inclusive decisions.


Digital expert roundtable discussion and public webinar

Due to COVID-19, the first virtual expert roundtable event was held in mid-April. Together with the diversity and bias expert Manfred Wondrak (factor-D Diversity Consulting), around 25 representatives of member companies discussed about prejudices, stereotyping and stigmatization of people with disabilities in the context of work. The result of interactions between the companies was a collection of anti-bias strategies and best practices that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace, as well as facilitate the introduction of accessibility standards significantly. In order to counteract the "categorization" of people with disabilities, these findings were structured, edited and made available in a public webinar to the entire myAbility network.

350 international listeners

On May 13, 2020, one day after the originally planned DisAbility Confidence Day 2020, 350 interested participants from Austria, Germany and Switzerland took part in the first myAbility webinar. After a theoretical introduction of the topic by Manfred Wondrak, Robert Öllinger, DisAbility Management consultant at myAbility, introduced the topic of disability and enriched the presentation with his personal and professional work experience. In the second part, the speakers shared tips for overcoming one's own biases as well as presented anti-bias strategies for companies. Furthermore, numerous questions from the participants were answered.

You can watch the entire one-hour webinar (subtitled) here:


"Warm but incompetent"

Findings from cognitive psychology and behavioural economics demonstrate that people with disabilities tend to be perceived as "warm" (= likeable) but "incompetent". This conception is often associated with a feeling of pity and the urge of wanting to help. These biases contribute significantly to the misconception that people with disabilities are less capable to perform on a job and, therefore, have fewer chances in the job market than people without disabilities. How strong these unconscious biases are, depend on the type of disability, the corporate culture and, most importantly, on personal experiences, as the following graphic shows:

Anti-bias strategies for more inclusion

Due to the ongoing socialization process, we all have individual biases, which can be very different. This fact cannot be changed, but we can actively work on overcoming these biases over time and, above all, ensure that they do not negatively influence our decisions. In order for us to make more objective decisions (e.g. in the recruitment process), it is important to know and analyse our own biases. At this point, we would like to give you 5 specific tips that help generate a more positive perception on the issue of disability in your company:

Tip 1: Create personal contact

Nothing changes our perspectives quite like our personal experience. Therefore, deliberately create situations in which you can get in personal contact with people with different disabilities. For example, engage in DisAbility Awareness Trainings and actively network employees with and without disabilities.

Tip 2: DisAbility Mainstreaming

Nobody wants to feel at a disadvantage. Therefore, make sure to let the entire team understand the value added by inclusion and accessibility policies. For example, share your standardized interview guidelines and draw attention to the increased usability of accessible websites.

Tip 3: Display management commitment

Managers are role models in companies. Therefore, emphasize the necessity to have managers explicitly commit to more diversity and inclusion, and make the results measurable. For example, have charters and statements signed at the highest level and entrench inclusive behaviour as a key performance indicator in the performance evaluation.

Tip 4: Give impetus

Visibility increases awareness. Raise the visibility of disability and deliberately look for counter-stereotypes and success stories. Organize bias awareness training sessions and present the performance of people with disabilities (role models) and, above all, their potential.      

Tip 5: Implement behavioural design

Processes provide direction. Develop guidelines which help to make more inclusive decisions automatically and change standardized processes. For example, focus on competency models in human resources and make use of the four-eyes principle and anonymous sub-processes.

We are happy to help

We are happy to assist you personally and answer all your questions. Please feel free to contact Sebastian Brettl at if you are interested in the myAbility Economic Forum or if you have questions about any of our services. MyAbility is active in the following areas and happy to provide guidelines and support for successful implementation:

To get information on the services of factor-D Diversity Consulting, contact Manfred Wondrak at or visit the Manfred Wondrak is active in the following areas and is happy to help: