When you see me, you’d never guess that I’m disabled. But, with hearing loss and by wearing hearing aids, I have a disability. It doesn’t require anything from anyone else except perhaps a little extra patience when I’m having trouble hearing them.
A friend parking in an accessible parking spot, with the proper sticker on his dash, was immediately approached and yelled at by a stranger. “You’re not supposed to park there!” My friend, a youngish man, grabbed his cane from the back seat and said, “Oh yeah?” The stranger backed off without an apology.
It’s often worse for those who don’t have a cane or another outward sign that they “deserve” the closer space. I don’t need or want the space, but those who have MS or heart conditions may not look like they do, either. People need to mind their own beeswax.
A report in Forbes claims lots of people hide their disability when it concerns their mental health. Stigma is still alive and well. But, the author argues, that can hurt them and everyone else more than it helps. A study by the Harvard Business Review shows that between 4% and 40% of employees will hide a disability of any kind if they can.
Stigma. Pity. Being treated differently. All of those things get in the way of someone with a disability disclosing it. I tell people about the hearing aids if I feel it will make them more at ease to know they need to speak up a bit. At the gym, when I don’t have them in, and someone talking to me sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, I say something. I didn’t hesitate to tell my team at my last radio station.
And do you know who I always tell? Anyone in close proximity to me near a pool! Pushing me into the water won’t just make me mad, it will cost them several thousand dollars to replace my hearing aids!