It’s ridiculous to think this title is even a thing nowadays, but none of us are naive here; discrimination in the workplace is still a horribly dominant issue. We’re slowly educating ourselves on some of the disgusting facts on discrimination; that women’s wages are lower than men’s of the same stature, that POC and particularly WOC get generally paid less than their white co-workers; but are we really doing enough?
I question this because I have recently experienced discrimination in the workplace, and it’s absolutely appalled and shocked me, not to mention terribly upset me and knocked my confidence. I won’t be mentioning names or companies because I know that as a rule, this type of discrimination is NOT part of the company’s ethos and I would hate for it to be attached to the company. The person whom discriminated against me unfortunately (I think) just got annoyed in a situation and took it out on my disability. It’s not an excuse for their behaviour, but I won’t judge them based on this experience; they clearly need better training in how to handle disabled employees and how not to offend or discriminate.
I suffer with N.E.A.D (non epileptic attack disorder). In the past, they were quite prominent, and yes, have happened during work hours. However, I have not once let them affect my performance or put others in danger. I know my own body and my own illness, and I was able to learn when I needed a break in order to prevent my seizures happening (with the amazing help of my previous co-workers and manager). My disability, although a health and safety question mark, is not a reason not to hire me and stating and suggesting that it is is discrimination. Unacceptable.
As someone who is presently not damagingly affected by their disability, I never once dreamed it would ever be an issue for employment. To be honest with you, I never really thought of myself as someone who was ‘un-able’ to do anything. I can do all that anyone else can, I just so happen to fall unconscious from time to time. Regardless of this, regardless of whether I AM able to do the same as others, I do not expect to ever be discriminated against and am devastated that it has happened. Disability discrimination isn’t something I hear people talking about and that needs to change. Whether the person is visibly disabled or not, their equality and dignity must be top priority as an employer and their ability to do the job must NEVER be determined by their disability. This is not ok.
If someone thinks they are capable of doing a job, then they apply for the job. End of story. Nobody has the right to tell them they are not capable of employment because of their disability. If they have to sit on a chair behind tills – so be it. If they have to take a few extra breaks throughout the day, to recuperare or take medication – so be it. If they’re a little slower due to movement problems, loss of limbs, scoliosis, ANYTHING – SO BE IT. Just because someone is not what you deem to be a “normal” employee, this does not make them un-employable.
I think people need to be educated and made aware of how disgusting discriminating against disabilities truly is. It makes the person feel like a burden, feel that they’ll never find a job, feel uncomfortable around employers, low about themselves and their ability… It can completely crush someone’s spirit, and that is not ok. I don’t profess to know everything there is to know about disabled issues, as much as I try to educate myself, but that is why I am making this post – to reiterate to myself and to you how important it is that we are respectful of the disabled community! Whether you think it is a problem or not isn’t the issue, if it upsets and affects that person then it needs addressing. No one has the right to tell someone what they should and shouldn’t be offended by.
So here’s a note-to-self as well as a note-to-all: let’s educate ourselves. Let’s learn about the issues in the disabled community, and lets be part of the solution. Whether it’s acting against discrimination, helping someone achieve their goals or curving ableist slurs.. Let’s help our friends feel comfortable and let’s actually start to create equality.
All this is is me highlighting something that has personally been brought to my attention recently, on a very intimate level.
I cannot express how shocked I was at this experience, and how low it made me feel afterwards. But let me tell you, no matter what my brain tries to tell me about me being to blame, discrimination is NEVER ok. Unfortunately as much as we like to profess equality, we are not all treated equal in today’s society. I personally have always thought of myself as someone of privilege and never in my wildest dreams expected this. I don’t think I have it worse than anyone, and I’m so grateful and lucky that this is not a regular occurrence for me, but it’s still not ok. We need to actually start treating people equally and letting the oppressed have their own voice – knowing when it’s time for us to step back and let them speak!
Today, I am a disabled person talking about disability discrimination in the workplace. But tomorrow, I hope to be listening and educated on someone else’s truth. Let’s give people a voice.