Monday, September 16, 2013

WE STILL HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO

Last Saturday was a beautiful day.  The sky was blue and the temperature was in the seventies with a light breeze.  The perfect fall day.  I was happy because I'd  had a book signing at a friend's bookstore.  A couple of people came in and bought my book and three had been sold since the last time I'd been in, making a total of five books sold. It had been a nice afternoon visiting with Robin, the owner,and selling books. The perfect day until ... 

My caregiver and I decided to go out for dinner to a well known seafood restaurant.  We were taken to a table. A few minutes later our server came and asked what we would like to drink.  I always have a glass of wine if I go out to dinner on a Saturday.  I told our server the wine that I wanted, at which time, he glanced at my caregiver with a look that asked, "Is it okay for her  to have wine?"  My caregiver nodded that it was and our server brought my glass of wine.

This  may not seem like a big deal to you, but every time an incident like this occurs, I'm reminded that there are still some people who view me as different from everyone else.  People who see the wheelchair and make assumptions that I can't think for myself.That I wouldn't know not to order a glass of wine if there were some  medical reason why  I shouldn't.

Several weeks earlier, we were at the same restaurant and our server was speaking to my caregiver about my order rather than to me.  I asked our server to speak to me directly.  I was clear about what I wanted, but our server brought the wrong salad.  My caregiver told our server that I wanted shrimp in my salad, not chicken.  Our server offered to make another salad, but it would have taken too long.  I ate the salad with the chicken in it.  The good news, I was given a free dessert because of the error.

Disability awareness and sensitivity training workshops or speakers should be made available to anyone who is a restaurant employee. I don't know how realistic it is to expect managers to provide this kind of training.  I just know that it's needed. .I'm asking anyone reading this post, who is employed at a restaurant, to always remember to treat a person with a disability with the same dignity and respect that you would show any other patron you were serving.  Listen to them.  Don't assume that just because they have a disability, they can't think and speak for themselves.  

I always think we have come a long way.That people have changed their opinions about people with disabilities. That they know we're just like everyone else. We just do some things differently. Then, an incident happens, like the one that happened last Saturday,and I see, while we have come a long way in the acceptance of people with disabilities, we still have a long way to go.