When will society view people in terms of their skills, gifts and abilities instead of their differences?
By Norma LaForme
Published November 04, 2008
A friend and I went out for dinner recently. As we were getting ready to order, the waitress ignored me as without even as much as a hello, she asked my friend what I wanted. I looked at the women and said "she does not know" and I proceeded to order.
I am a person who lives with the disability of Cerebral Palsy, although I have a fairly mild case. The way my disability impacts me is in my walking and in my speech. As a result, people often treat me differently because they may think I have more of a disability then I do. I am well-educated and the last degree I completed a Masters of Divinity in Counseling. In spite of all of my education, I have not been able to obtain full time job and people continue to see me in a light that does not necessarily reflect the person I am.
So what is your first impression when you meet people with disabilities? Consider what your first response is when you see someone in a wheelchair or someone who has a developmental disability. Is it to feel sorry for them? If this is the case, please stop; the last thing that people with disabilities want is for you to feel sorry for them. People with disabilities are in your community and we want to be viewed as everyone else.
There has been a lot of research in the area of first impressions and a number of scientific studies have concluded that attractive people are viewed as smarter. I look average, I assume, so I feel like I should be treated any anyone else. When I meet people they may think I am drunk or unintelligent; however, this is, of course not the case.
I am a counselor. However, when people call, hear my voice and my speech impediment, they come to conclude that due to my disability I cannot assist them. I have come to realize that these people are missing out on the fact that I have skills that can assist them in overcoming any limitations they are experiencing, whether it be a difficult divorce or a life transition from an accident.
There are people with disabilities in the workforce. According to an article in the Globe and Mail on July 24,2008, 53.5% of people with disabilities are working part-time in Canada. The article also said that people with disabilities have non-physical jobs, however they need not be limited to office or retail work.
There are a number of people with disabilities who are highly educated so people with disabilities may be doctors, lawyers or yes, counselors. There is a high degree of people with disabilities in the service industry and that is great, but those who have a higher level of training also need to be able to find the jobs in their profession.
People with disabilities want the same thing as anyone else. What we want to do is making a living and to be fully involved in the community. What is not useful is to maintain unproductive stereotypes that hinder the progress of people with disabilities. It is time to put and end to stereotypes and not judge people based on their appearance alone.
The point is that people with disabilities are in the workforce and in the community; the question is when will society view people in terms of their skills, gifts and abilities instead of their differences? Time will tell.
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