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Empathy and Disability Inclusion with Ainslee Hooper.

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Episode 25 of The Professional Empathy Podcast


On this instalment of The Empathy Podcast, Leanne welcomes anthropologist and disability inclusion consultant Ainslee Hooper to the show. Throughout this episode, Ainslee discusses her personal experience as an individual who is part of the disability community, and how this has spurred her journey to identify able-bodied privilege in Australia’s public and private sectors. Ainslee also talks about the discrimination the disability community in Australia faces, the lack of acknowledgement and support they experience, and how this has a flow-on effect to individual wellbeing. In this valuable episode, Ainslee shares how everyone can use empathy to make a difference and be more inclusive of the disability community.

Watch full interview

Listen on Podomatic or watch the episode above

Watch a quick snippet here.

Timestamps and Highlights:

[1:35] After Leanne gives Ainslee a warm welcome to the show, Ainslee introduces herself and shares her motivation as both an anthropologist and disability inclusion consultant. Ainslee’s aim is to stop ableism, identify able-bodied privilege, and remove the “invisible barriers” in society.

[4:40] Leanne and Ainslee discuss the definition of ‘disability’. Ainslee addresses the negative connotations associated with the labels ‘disabled’ and ‘disability’, and how there is a societal hesitancy in using these terms.

[7:40] Ainslee talks about the need for empathy when understanding a person’s experience and their “disability pronoun”.

[15:12] Leanne and Ainslee discuss “intersectional feminism” and how this can help achieve equality and inclusion for the disability community in Australia.

[18:52] Leanne asks Ainslee what we can do as individuals to create and maintain a disability inclusive environment (i.e., workplace), and how ‘diversity targets’ are a façade and a tokenistic gesture, hindering true inclusivity.

[24:01] Ainslee shares how she has experienced engrained microaggressions as part of the disability community.

[32:13] Leanne asks Ainslee how everyone can be empathetic and mindful when curious about someone’s disability. Ainslee shares the parameters in which such questioning is appropriate and respectful.

[37:54] Leanne asks what can businesses do to be more inclusive of the disability community. Ainslee states that it starts with those in positions of power. Ainslee also iterates that there aren’t enough members of the disabled community in leadership positions.

[46:49] Ainslee discuss using humour to talk about disability; understanding the difference between laughing at versus laughing with.

[48:17] Ainslee and Leanne share their final thoughts, emphasising that people with disabilities are humans at the end of the day. Ainslee also reiterates that there is a need to engage with disability consultants in the early stages of workplace inclusion projects.


  • “The community needs to make sure everything is inclusive…Not waiting for someone to say ‘Hey, I can’t get in there’” (Ainslee H.).

  • “I’ve had people get offended [when] I was talking about my experiences all because it was making them uncomfortable” (Ainslee H.).

  • “People with disabilities are human. They are not their disabilities…It’s not the most interesting thing about you and it does not define you” (Leanne B.).

  • “Anything around inclusion needs to include someone with a disability, otherwise you’re not doing inclusion right” (Ainslee H.).

  • “People are humans to be heard, not problems to be solved” (Leanne B.).

Key Points Discussed:

  • What is the definition of ‘disability’ or being ‘disabled’?

  • As individuals, what can we do to be inclusive of the disability community in Australia?

  • How can we have conversations/address someone’s disability without being offensive?

  • How can businesses have a more inclusive culture and be more inclusive internally?

Connect with Ainslee Hooper:

· Ainslee Hooper Consulting:

Hi! I'm Leanne Butterworth, Empathy Speaker and Educator, University Lecturer and Mental Health Advocate.

Empathy First is a Brisbane-based social enterprise offering Empathy workshops, online courses and individual Empathy coaching to help you build connection and strengthen your relationships for personal and professional success.

Contact me today and let's talk about how you can put Empathy First.


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