October is Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this week is Invisible Disabilities Week. Ironically (or maybe not), I came across a recent post on Facebook that was shared by someone in my hometown just days ago and proves that we still have a lot of work to do. As I read the lengthy post, I couldn't help but feel sick to my stomach; what begins as a probably-well-intentioned restaurant review quickly spirals into an increasingly offensive, ableist account of one person's reaction to the concept that people with disabilities are in fact *gasp* people.
I tried to let it go. I really did. But this post just reveals how incredibly ignorant some people still are. If you read the post and didn't have a similar nausea-inducing reaction, you might be one of them yourself. In that case, here are a few reasons why this story is so sickening:
1. Employing people who are qualified to do the job they're assigned and compensating them appropriately for doing that job is NOT community service. It's just plain old business, and to discriminate in the hiring process or to not compensate your employees for the work they do is ILLEGAL and unethical. You are not deserving of special recognition and accolades simply for obeying the law.
2. To assume you can ascertain the "peak" of a stranger's ability simply by looking at them is absurd. It's like assuming someone is fit and healthy because they're skinny. It's not only impossible; it's potentially damaging and leads to all kinds of negative and inaccurate stereotypes.
3. The people who were on their phones or talking to their companions may not have noticed the employees working to prepare and deliver their food, or they may have the common decency to not point and stare at another human being who's just going about their day as if they were in a circus sideshow or on exhibit in a zoo. Do you also stare in awe when a cashier gives you the correct change or another driver stops at a red light?
4. Doing something so well that no one notices your "handicap" is not a universal goal that every disabled person strives for. And "machine-like efficiency" or productivity at all costs is NOT a measure of a human being's value. People with disabilities should not be required to "overcome" their "limitations" to be considered worthy of existence.
5. The fact that you were "in awe" of these employees says more about you than it does about them.
It's unfortunate, yet not surprising, that there are still folks in my own town who feel this is appropriate to share on social media. To the author of this post and the thousands of people who have liked or shared it - please take this opportunity to learn. You might be surprised how many people with disabilities you interact with on a daily basis, and treating us like fellow human beings is really the least you could do.