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“Slightly Disabled, Not Helpless or Dumb”

In a recent issue of the New York Times, there was an article entitled, “Slightly Disabled, Not Helpless or Dumb” written by Jennifer Bartlett, a woman living in New York City who has cerebral palsy. She is married, has two masters’ degrees and works as a professor.

Ms. Bartlett’s disability is mostly an awkward gait and slurred speech but says that her main source of anxiety is not the strain of steps and crowds in the subway but rather the inappropriate and downright mean comments people make to her. She has been referred to as mentally backward by a fellow bus rider, a retard by someone in a club and waitresses routinely ask her companion what she wants to order. She says that she has even been brushed off by police when reporting suspicious behavior like nearly being attacked by a homeless man.

Ms. Bartlett believes that since most people have no experience with successful people with disabilities, they are left to rely on stereotypes and in doing so, have no tact. She wonders if these people think she cannot hear or can’t process their comments. She states, “Sometimes I feel like screaming: Hello! There’s a human being in here and she is registering your stupidity”.

I thought I would share this with Springboard’s friends to illustrate yet another illustration of the importance of disability etiquette & awareness training when and wherever possible.

Nadine