Have you ever felt judged over the clothes that you wore? Or the way you styled your hair? Imagine feeling like that every day, but over something that you cannot control. Feeling scrutinized, picked apart, receiving dirty looks from random people. Unfortunately, that is something I experience often. The thing that upsets me the most is how people stigmatize me because of my physical disability. Some assume things that aren’t true. It’s almost as if the word “disability” has a negative connotation. The point is, there is prejudice and discrimination towards people with physical disabilities, contrary to what some people believe.
According Dictionary.com, prejudice is “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” An example of this is people automatically assuming that because someone has a physical disability, they also have a cognitive or developmental one. This has happened to me countless times, especially when I’m with a friend shopping or having lunch. People direct the questions to the person I’m with, as if I can’t comprehend English or understand what they are saying. It really makes no sense because if you think about it, what evidence or reason does a person have to support or explain why they do that? Secondly, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, discrimination is “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.” An example of this is excluding someone from a group because of their disability. When I was younger, some of my friends would exclude me from hanging out with them because I couldn’t keep up, and then get annoyed with me or would not be willing to hear me out when I would try to express my feelings about it. Another thing that I cannot stand is people taking pity on others who have a disability. Yes, we’ve been through a lot and have overcome our fair share of obstacles, but you don’t have to feel sorry for us. Speaking for myself, treat me like any other human being.
Well that may be true, having a physical disability does its own set of baggage and as a result, discrimination and prejudice. Tiffany Carlson, a writer at The Huffington Post, points out six types of discrimination that disabled people face the most often in her online article: first, people assuming that we have a kind of mental disability just because we’re physically disabled, like I previously mentioned. Secondly, taxis or other transportation passing us by because they don’t want to deal with our extra needs – (little do they know, anyone hailing a cab by themselves can probably handle transferring on their own). Third, public places not being handicap accessible, which really irks me. According to the United States Department of Labor, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The ADA also establishes requirements for telecommunications relay services.” This means that any public space needs to be handicap accessible by law. Unfortunately, some people and business owners think that certain buildings are grandfathered-in to the ADA, and therefore do not need to be handicap accessible, but that is false. But the saddest part is that so many businesses owners just don’t care and purposefully choose to discriminate.
I’ve been to countless places where a ramp is on the complete opposite side of the sidewalk to the building. Even to places with no handicap accessible doors – to the point where I’m not even surprised anymore when businesses don’t have them. Fourth is wheelchair quotas – a number of how many wheelchairs are allowed certain places. Concert venues, airplanes, city buses, amusement park rides are a few examples. While this isn’t illegal discrimination, these rules can be very limiting, forcing people to change their plans or not being able to do something, such as going to their favorite concert, so to me it’s just as bad as discrimination. Strangers pretending that they don’t see disabled people is the fifth one, whether they’re cutting the line in front of you, cutting you off while ignoring you as they try to get past you, or purposefully avoiding your gaze when you need help getting something from a store shelf, for example. Last, but not least, there are people taking handicapped parking spots. This happens to me almost daily. It just infuriates me how people take the handicapped spots for convenience in broad daylight, where a severely disabled person could come along and really need that spot. I even try not to use them if there is another regular parking spot close because there could be someone who needs the handicap spot way more than I do.
In conclusion, there is no denying that people with physical disabilities face discrimination and prejudice in different ways in different aspects of life, whether it be a condescending person, someone who pities you, or someone who is just being plain rude. It can also occur in public spaces or buildings. I realize that society as a whole cannot change its ways and life is not perfect for anyone, and it shouldn’t be, but if more people changed their view, or were willing to alter their perspective a little and have some empathy, it would change life for disabled people.