Avoid as­sump­tions writes per­son with dis­abil­ity

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Wanda White writes from Broad Cove

It is 2015 and I had as­sumed that I lived in a pretty much pro­gres­sive and open-minded so­ci­ety, one that I could be fairly proud of — that is un­til Fri­day, June 12.

I was at my den­tist’s of­fice ac­com­pa­nied by my hus­band and home care worker. I ap­proached the desk to fill out the cus­tom­ary form when one has no chart. As I put my hand up to reach for the form, the re­cep­tion­ist looked past me, at my hus­band then to my home care worker and said, “One of you can fill this out for her.” I was not happy. I was not dis­mayed. I was down­right stunned and shocked! I use a walker, I do slur my speech, but that is be­cause I have fa­mil­ial spas­tic ataxia, which af­fects my abil­ity to walk, talk and my co­or­di­na­tion.

I am not dumb! I am 56 years old with a darned good col­lege ed­u­ca­tion and I worked for 25 years in ad- di­tion to the six years in col­lege.

What got me was the re­cep­tion­ist’s fail­ure to even con­sider that, or even ask me if, I was able to fill out a form. All too of­ten, many in so­ci­ety tend to judge peo­ple based on ap­pear­ance only and that is not right. It is wrong on so many lev­els to do this for so many rea­sons.

Firstly, by as­sum­ing some­thing be­fore one knows the facts, it takes away from a per­son’s sense of self­worth. As a dis­abled per­son it tells me I am con­sid­ered less than ca­pa­ble of do­ing things for my­self, even the most mun­dane things.

Se­condly, it tells me that some peo­ple in so­ci­ety still do not get the con­cept that those with dis­abil­i­ties are ca­pa­ble be­ings, that although we may not be able to do many things the way they usu­ally are done, we can still do them.

Thirdly, it tells me that we are not ac­cepted by many in so­ci­ety whether they be neigh­bors who want no in­ter­ac­tions with us, to peo­ple who speak at us, around us, or through us in a con­de­scend­ing man­ner, to em­ploy­ers who wig­gle their way out of hir­ing us be­cause they fear hir­ing us will cost more some­how, or that they think we can’t work with­out con­stant su­per­vi­sion.

Fourthly, it is down­right dis­crim­i­na­tory to treat any­one with a dis­abil­ity any dif­fer­ently than a non-dis­abled per­son.

Come on folks, it is mid­way through 2015; it is time to shed those 18th cen­tury no­tions and get ed­u­cated. All we want is to be in­cluded in as many as­pects of so­ci­ety as we can.

In­clu­sion is ac­cep­tance. It’s my so­ci­ety too!

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