After the past few weeks I’ve been wanting to clarify something: discrimination does not always mean being told you can’t do something because of your disability/skin color/religion/etc. In fact – its normally much more subtle, and it doesn’t even have to be intentional. Generally I tend to be pretty forgiving of “accidental” discrimination which occurs only because the guilty party doesn’t know any better. I only become enraged (and boy do I mean enraged) when the same person is a repeat offender, despite having their mistakes brought to their attention. In order to help you avoid joining the list of people who I have written off as hopeless causes, I’ve written some examples of not-so-blatant discrimination based on disability below.
- Having a business without handicapped access
I don’t care if you have been “grandfathered in” with regards to the ADA. Just because your business is too old to be required by law to have handicapped access doesn’t let you off the hook. There are some cases (such as a restaurant local to me) where adding access would be an unreasonable cost for a business to be expected to take on. Then, and only then, will I refrain from telling everyone I know not to patronize your business. If you have the option to become accessible and choose not to then your willful ignorance is fair game.
Choco-Latte, a business in Bar Harbor, Maine whose idea of wheelchair accessibility was putting a step at the top of their ramp. They’re in my Burn Book now.
2. Putting handicapped seating separate from the “general population”
I have been to a few concert venues where handicapped seating is a completely different section from the “normies”. I try to be understanding because hey, at least they have a handicapped option. But its *current year here* and that’s no longer an excuse. I’ve had enough of the segregation and you don’t get a pass just because you tried.
3. Organizing a group activity that is not accessible to everyone in your group
If you are a teacher, a manager, or coach, you are required not only by the ADA but by basic moral compasses to provide reasonable accommodation. This means that if you organize a group photo for your class you need to accommodate the physical abilities of all students with diagnosed disabilities. If you organize a corporate team building event you are legally and ethically obligated to ensure it is something that every employee can participate in. This is not only the “right” thing to do, it is legally required under the ADA. If you are someone in one of these positions I can almost guarantee that the person with the disability will not be mad if you ask them what they need! It’s better than assuming, because you know what they say about that…
These are three pretty common things I’ve run in to in my life that I would like to think are fairly avoidable. I can assure you that never has someone who owns a business with no ramp come to me and said “you can’t shop here because you’re disabled” – but they didn’t have to. The lack of access spoke volumes. If you have any other examples that you see in your daily life I’d love to know them, maybe I’ll throw together a Discrimination Vol. 2 in the next few months!