My girlfriend Emily has a few food allergies that make eating dinner with her a little difficult. And as much as I try to think about what she can eat I invariably forget. Beyond that, I forget to explain it to my other friends when we all go out for a bite. One of the last times we went out my buddy decided to meet at a kid friendly pizza place. Without thinking I accepted and we all meet up. When my buddy asked why Emily wasn’t eating I told him that she is allergic to gluten, tomatoes and some dairy, basically making pizza the worst thing she could possibly eat. My friend quickly apologized for the restaurant selection and Emily said it was fine. She made the point that she didn’t want any special treatment and that she could choose to eat a salad but wasn’t really hungry. I was really happy to hear this from her as I can relate to it as a person with a disability.
I am not looking for any special treatment. I may not even want to be a part of what it being offered but I do want to have the choice. I think able bodied people make the assumption that disable people are looking for special treatment or even an advantage when it comes to getting jobs or mobility issues. This is a common misunderstanding. When it comes to having a disability many are at a physical disadvantage and all we are looking for is a level playing field. That doesn’t necessarily mean a physical advantage. In most cases it is a mental or emotional advantage we are looking for. In the eyes of some able bodied people doing the hiring they see a person in a wheelchair or with an artificial limb and they automatically think of all the things the disabled person cannot do and maybe the cost of making the work place accessible. They are perceptually using these physical issue to eliminate an otherwise qualified applicant.
While outright discrimination is prohibited I believe the subtle idea that a disabled person cannot meet certain requirements of the job is more common. Disable people want that mental block removed. They don’t want to be seen as different, they don’t want to be treated with any preference they want to be asked if they can met the demands of the job and if it requires a slight variation in how things are usually done then it should be considered.
For example, I use a push cart to move very large or heavy objects in my office. The cart didn’t cost much and it allows me to carry possibly more equipment than the average able bodies person would, not to mention I let others use it when I am not. In this instance, the slight change in how things are done allows me to be equally efficient as my able bodied counterparts and in many situations the equipment can come from a federal budget and not cost the company any money at all. Therefore, an employer should look at the job and see what requirements can be done differently to remove any issue that the disabled applicant may have. In the long room opening up the job to more applicants disable or not is good for the application process and good for the company.