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Do people get treated differently when they do not fit the picture?

Category: Blogger's Corner, Women, disability, equality, treatment

Do people get treated differently when they do not fit the picture?

If you have a disability, the way people react to you is something you’ll know all too well. But if you don’t have a disability, experiencing it can be eye opening… 

A few weeks ago I went out with some friends. We were at a club where the music was really loud. I talked… no, shout-talked a lot until 5am in the morning.

When I woke up the next morning my voice was gone. I’d talked so much that my voice wasn’t even restored for the whole day.

During this time I still had to do some shopping. First store was a toyshop, I needed a present for a child’s birthday. I walked to the counter and the friendly woman behind the counter said: “Hello! How can I help you?” With my voice as it was there were two options. One, I could try to sound like Gollem from Lord of the Rings buying a toy. Or two, not to say anything at all and use some form of sign language.

I chose the second option. The gesture I made was me pointing at my lips and nodding no. To me that was a perfect sign to say: “Hey there, I can’t talk to you!”

The next thing that happened was totally unexpected. The woman looked me in the eyes and I could tell that she wasn’t expecting that at all. She was totally thrown off by the fact that I didn’t responded like everyone else. She started to treat me differently to the other customer who was in front off me in the line.

She asked me: “Is it a present? Shall I wrap it up?” All in a childlike tone, as if i was deaf or dumb. It was a reaction I had never experienced before. So I nodded yes. She took the paper and clumsily started to wrap the present up. I made a facial expression and another hand gesture to say thank you and goodbye as I took the present of the counter and walked out the store.

When I left the store I felt strange. Perhaps she was a new employee and still needed to learn how to wrap a present up. But I got curious and asked myself the question: are people being treated differently when they don’t fit the picture? Of course I already knew the answer. Most of us know people get treated differently because they look or act differently. But it had never happened to me before, so I didn’t really know just how it would feel.

I decided to do it again at the next shop. It was a market stand this time. I walked up to the counter and the woman behind it asked friendly: “How may I help you?” I made the same hand gesture as before. And I’ll be damned, it happened again.

She was probably more used to different sorts of people and continued asking me (suddenly in a very childish way again) what I needed. She was very friendly and I got what I wanted, payed for it and gave her some thumbs up. She started waving me goodbye like we were friends.

I repeated the process several times at different shops and they all did the same sort of thing. The last visit was to a supermarket. I walked to the counter and got a friendly hello. This time I wanted to try something different, so I didn’t make the hand gesture, but instead just nodded yes or no to the questions I got asked. Suddenly it wasn’t friendly anymore. In fact, I didn’t receive a goodbye at all.

It’s amazing how people respond in an unexpected situation. People who have some form of disability don’t deserve or want to be treated differently. So, I want to give everyone the advice to try this sometime. It made me realise that I probably would have responded the same way –  until I experienced it for myself.

Vercida works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with Vercida to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email info@vercida.com for more information.

We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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