Working as an advocate for persons with disabilities, I am always amazed when people assume disability means incapable. I was beyond shocked when a guest speaker, a very accomplished para athlete, with significant physical limitations shared his surprise as he arrived to give a speech to students with disabilities and he saw the level of ability they possessed.
I have come to expect this type of pre-formed idea of how “disability” resonates with those in the non-disabled population, but I never expected to bear witness to it in the PWD (persons with disability) population. When working with employers, attempting to place a consumer in their business I fight this daily. The moment I mention a PWD their eyes glaze over, and then they are not as excited to share an open position.
I can only imagine what they are visualizing? I am pretty sure they are not thinking of Stephen Hawking, English Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist, Author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge. I suppose they are not thinking about Collette from Boston who, after being told she was not employable, started and runs a successful bakery. I am pretty sure they do not think about the wildly successful actor Jim Carrey.
In my experience they often think about their liability in employing someone with a disability, accommodations, cost, additional training… and rarely stop to think about the limits they are applying before even giving someone a chance. I presume many of them fail to comprehend that almost a quarter of the American population have a disability. The probability that current staff are working successfully while living with a disability is great. The fact that persons with disabilities are persons first, having strengths and needs, possessing skills and knowledge and are able to be productive employees is lost on many who make road blocks instead of opening doors.
Have you ever faced a situation where someone completely underestimated you?