I'm sure you have heard about Michael Garcia, a waiter at a restaurant in Houston, who refused to serve a group of people after hearing one of the members of the group make a disparaging comment about a five-year-old little boy with Down's Syndrome named Milo. The comment was, "Special needs children need to be special somewhere else." My first thought upon hearing this was, "Oh really, where, a desert island perhaps?" "Someplace where Milo doesn't make you uncomfortable or disrupt your dinner."
I thought this was 2013 and those kind of comments were a thing of the past. I guess I was wrong. There will always be people like the restaurant patron who think disabled people are second-class citizens who don't deserve the same rights and privileges as everyone else.
I have been thinking about times in my life when I was made to feel that I wasn't deserving or good enough. There have been many, but one that stands out is when a dean, at George Warren Brown, called me shortly before graduation to inform me that I would have to be at the end of the procession when my class marched into the auditorium. I couldn't take my place in line alphabetically like everyone else. I mentioned the conversation to a professor friend of mine saying, "I don't care, they can give me my diploma in the parking lot. I just want to get out of here." Being told I would be at the end of the procession hurt, but I didn't think it would do any good to protest. The day after talking to my professor friend,I received a call telling me that I would be marching in the auditorium in alphabetical order just like everyone else, I never did find out what my friend said to change the dean's mind, but it was nice to know that someone went to bat for me and thought I deserved my rightful place in line.
I am glad that so many people supported Michael Garcia's actions. He risked his job to support Milo. That took courage. Not many people would have done that. He saw past Milo's disability and just saw the sweet little boy he is. I'd like to thank him. By supporting Milo he showed support for all children and adults with disabilities. I hope others will learn from his example.
I'd like to remind the restaurant patron that you can't catch a disability. Having a disability is not like having a cold. Disabled people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Milo deserved your respect and to be treated with dignity. I hope someday you'll regret your comment. I hope that you'll be able to open your mind (and heart) and see the person, not just a person's disability. We won't go away just because we may make you uncomfortable. We're here and we're not going anywhere.