Humans make assumptions about others all the time, sometimes because we have had a single past experience or because of what we have been taught or seen in the media. What can be difficult about assumptions is that if a person doesn’t make the effort to look at other as individuals, they’ll fail to see a person’s unique skills and attributes, which can lead to discrimination. Discrimination does not always mean that a person is intentionally being cruel or dismissive, they simply may feel nervous or scared about doing the “correct” thing, based on their assumptions, and doing things that can leave a person with a disability feeling ignored or worse.
Being Treated As Though Stupid, Or Ignored Completely, by Shop Employees
Going into a store can be difficult when employees may assume you can’t make shopping choices on your own. They may speak to the person you are with, instead of with you, or, if you are by yourself, they may ignore you completely. It can make shopping painful and embarrassing.
Taxis, and even sometimes buses, will pass a person with a disability by, especially if in a wheelchair, thinking that it will be extra work and wanting to avoid the “hassle.” Bus drivers at times actively complain or try and dissuade those with disabilities from getting on the bus, saying there is no space for them and to wait for the next bus instead. During rush hour, other passengers may make disparaging remarks, refuse to give up a handicap seat, or ignore the need for aisles to be clear for easy access. For many people, not just those with disabilities, public transport is their only or best option, and when it becomes exponentially more difficult to access the system, it becomes a huge burden to those trying to get to and from work, to doctor appointments, or just home at the end of a long day.
For many with a physical disability, the single greatest barrier to being able to enjoy the same activities that the general community takes art in, are stairs. Although the American Disability Act requires that every public space and building be accessible, there is a common misconception that this only applies to *new* build buildings and that older buildings have been “grandfathered” in. This is untrue, and yet the myth continues, making it a daily occurrence for many to not be able to enter building such as banks, grocery stores, libraries. and apartment buildings. Fun activities with friends that happen in bars, restaurants, hotels, or even private residences, that do not have access means that even if a person would like to be part of the group they often have to decline invitations they would love to accept. Even people who are thoughtful may overlook checking whether the place where they are holding the party or event they have invited a friend with a disability too was accessible, many times simply because the assumption is that of course it would be, because of ADA.
People Ignoring Not Just the Disability, But the Person as Well.
While seeing past a disability to the person is a good thing and encouraged, just flat out ignoring a person with a disability is discrimination. We touched on this with how store employees can be at times, but certainly they are not alone in their behavior. Mothers with strollers may push past on sidewalks, bicyclists may swooosh past with nary a look back, or fellow shoppers or patrons avoiding eye contact when a person is looking for help or has a question.
People Taking Parking Places or Seats on the Bus
As we talked about early, public transportation can be a minefield, but generally, those without disabilities often feel it’s acceptable to take a disabled parking spot or seat for “just a few minutes”, because they are in a hurry or don’t see anyone with an obvious disability around. “Invisible” disabilities can make walking long distances, standing for a long time, or keep one’s balance on a moving bus nearly impossible,
These are just a few ways that discrimination can pop up for those with disabilities and present a challenge to those attempting to just live their life in the community. Take a moment to think about if you have ever accidentally discriminated against a person in any of these ways and, if so, think about in what ways you can make changes in the future to be a more accommodating neighbor. Your fellow community members will really appreciate it!