Having a disability can create a whole host of trust issues, but I’m not going to talk about any of that. I’m sure plenty of people have said plenty on the subject already.
After an already full day and then hitting the gym I tried not to look like a hot mess (although I probably stank of airplane & gym sweat) I went down to the hotel lobby for something to eat. Knowing my history of stomach issues after a travel day I wanted something small so I settled for eating at the bar rather than a larger meal at the restaurant.
Typically I hang back and people watch before making my approach, especially if I’m in my wheelchair and I have to interact above eye level (like a bar). But I didn’t see anyone ordering or eating at any of the tables so I was on my own.
I ordered my food and told the server (or bartender?) that I’d be at a nearby table when she brought out my food I asked if I should her or at the bar when I was finished. She said something to the effect of, people usually pay when their food arrives, but it was OK because she trusted me.
I didn’t think anything of it in the moment, probably because I’d been running on fumes for hours, but then I thought about it.
She trusted me. Great.
(Call me a skeptic.)
I watched everyone around me while I ate my meal.
She didn’t seem to “trust” anyone else, nor did any of the other staff.
I couldn’t help but think (and still think) she trusted me because I have a disability; that I use a wheelchair.
Because someone in a wheelchair won’t even think of stealing, never mind actually do it (and full disclosure I did consider “forgetting” to pay when no one was looking just to prove a point, but I had no interest in going to confession the next day so I didn’t).
Someone in a wheelchair wouldn’t think of stealing; just like people with disabilities can’t possibly be attractive.
I’m sure no harm was intended on her part, and many people who read this will probably think I’m being oversensitive, but the reality is she’s been taught in some fashion to believe that people with disabilities are different than those who are able-bodied. And by treating me differently than everyone else who had a bill to pay she’s furthering the misconception that those with disabilities are “different” and/or “less than.”
I have news for you; people with disabilities are capable of stealing too.
We’re capable of a lot of things, just like the able-bodied.
We’re not all trustworthy.
We’re not all nice.
Some of us have left bills unpaid (intentionally and unintentionally).
Some of us can be rude.
Some of us are attractive.
Just like everyone else, because we like to include ourselves in the “everyone else” crowd.
It’s nice when someone extends a kindness towards another person, but if you won’t extend the same kindness to someone else, then please don’t. Everyone desires to be treated equally, regardless of ability.
If you wouldn’t trust an able-bodied person to pay a bill after the fact, for example, then don’t trust a disabled person (whatever your rationale for that might be). Also it’s not the best idea to go against company policy, if there is one, just in case you end up losing your job because you felt bad for someone who doesn’t need the pity.