Diss Ability

black outlines of people with various disabilities: walking with a cane, ina wheelchair, etc. Above them it reads: some disabilities look like this. Below them it reads, some look like this and the drawing is of a man just standing there.

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!

4 thoughts on “Diss Ability”

  1. I can fully understand why someone would be hesitant to divulge that they have a disability, for discriminative attitudes are highly prevalent in areas of employment which will directly affect your career advancement and opportunities solely based on the frequent misguided perceptions of others.
    In social settings can be very awkward depending on the environment if it tends to exaggerate the nature of your disability.

    But the absolute worse thing, is that people all to often see the disability or aid and not the person and you can be defined by your disability verses that of your abilities.

    When speaking to a customer service agent via the phone and having identified that I’m blind, at the end of the conversation as were about to hang up, the agent tells me that if I hadn’t identified as being blind, they couldn’t tell, since I don’t sound blind.
    Having people be totally surprised that I’m blind based on my writing skills.

    who would ever want to subject themselves to this?

    1. I think people are under the misguided impression that they’re complimenting you.
      What you need is a snappy comeback. Something like, “I don’t smell blind, either!”
      It gets the point across to them without getting angry or taking it personally.
      It isn’t personal.
      As my friend Erin says, don’t confuse thoughtlessness with malice.
      People are rarely malicious but they’re often thoughtless.

  2. Oh Lisa, my sense of humour is very well developed and it gets me into trouble on a regular basis. After spending the entire day running around downtown Toronto from the early morning, being hot & sweaty, haven’t eaten lunch and being asked what my dog’s name is dozens of times, my response finally was, What’s your dog’s name, Shithead!? Or having someone comment, what a beautiful dog you have, I turn around and say, Yes, his mother and I are very happy.

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