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What is unconscious bias?

Every day all of us make countless decisions without even realising we are doing it. At any given moment, we can be assaulted with 11 million pieces of information. Because our brains can only process about 40 items efficiently, we need to rely on shortcuts and past knowledge or experiences to make safe assumptions. This creates what we call 'unconscious bias'. (Wilson, Timothy Strangers to Ourselves:Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious. Harvard University Press, 2004)

It is thought that unconscious bias against disabled people in the recruitment process is significantly higher than against any other social group.

So, let's take a look at this using me as an example...on 'paper' I have a disability (well two as you will have seen on my home page).
I tick the box of 'impairements with fluctuating or recurring effects'. Rheumatoid Arthritis is typically an illness with periods of remission and flare ups.

The facts
I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Glaucoma, two chronic conditions that are predominantly associated with older people, already you are likely to be painting a picture in your mind of the type of person I am. I take weekly medication for the RA and daily for Glaucoma and Since 2012 I have had 8 eye surgeries, 3 steroid injections and thumb surgery for my RA.
So, how is that mental image going? Do you have an idea of what I'm like? How mobile I am? What I might look like? How able or unable I might be? I imagine you do, everyone does, as we read about someone or something we start building an image of that person or situation, making assumptions. It is natural, it is unconscious bias.
Would you employ me?


The reality

I work in Pensions for one of the largest advisory firms in the world, apart from scheduled hospital appointments and recovery from surgery I have had no time off through general illness.
I am the co-founder of a network for young people working in the West Midlands Pensions industry and love sport. In 2016 I completed the Prudential  Ridelondon (100 mile bike ride) as well as climbing the three highest peaks in the U.K, 2017 I completed the velo Birmingham (100 mile bike ride) and in 2018 I am running the Birmingham 10K for loveBrum and Ridelondon again for Arthritis research.
 Would you employ me now?

This isn't a post to list my accomplishments, or to play down what it can be like to live with disABILITY, as these conditions can affect everyone differently. It is more to highlight how the reality of living with disABILITY can often be very different to the perception and every person should be considered as an individual not as a condition.
There is ability within everyone.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post :)

This blog post was originally published on and has been republished with the permission of the author, Zoe Brown.


Zoe Brown is a blogger with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Glaucomawho prides herself on reclaiming the meaning of the word disability. She is not afraid to stand up and talk openly about her condition, while fighting stigma around what it means to have a physical and/or mental illness. She blogs to prove that there is always ability within disABILITY.




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