For many years now, I have had the privilege of talking to various classes of college students about all things disability. Usually, the audience is students who happen to be going into some type of helping profession. At those times I talk about empowerment and appropriate use of language and some of my personal experiences with people that have been both positive and negative. One of the biggest concepts that I always make sure to stress is inclusion.
“Whatever happens to be going on, if there is a person with a disability that is involved, it would be really good to find a way that he or she could be part of it.”
That is one of my philosophies about life as well. In fact, I think that is what the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act is all about. On the books now for almost 29 years, the ADA levels the playing field. It says that places of public accommodation like retail stores, businesses, movie theaters, and restaurants need to be accessible to those of us with disabilities. A section of it also says that in situations of employment, if a person is qualified for a job, employers cannot refuse to hire a worker because of a disability. Reasonable accommodations must be made so that the worker can do the job. The ADA says accommodations must be made in all kinds of situations so that people with disabilities can have the same access to what they need and what they want to do just like people in the typical population.
Therefore, I have been disheartened by a few stories that I have seen in the news recently. Apparently, Walmart is getting rid of their greeter positions and restructuring that job so that the people in that role must be able to stand for long periods of time and also be able to lift at least 25 pounds. I have known several people with disabilities who have been greeters at Walmart, and I just don’t think these changes are fair. As a person who receives help from many government programs, I would like to say that I would love to be able to work 40 hours per week with some overtime. I have health conditions that will not allow me to do so. So I have to say that I admire both of my friends and the many other workers with disabilities who put their hearts into their jobs as greeters and I believe they should be allowed to continue to do so. Everybody knows that Walmart is a huge company. Do they have to phase out one of the few positions there that people with disabilities, especially wheelchair users can do? I have heard that some people who used to be greeters at Walmart are being reassigned to jobs where they help at self-checkout. That is fine if that is what the worker wants to do, but I fear that job will not expose the workers with disabilities to as many customers as their greeting job did. From the articles I read, one of the main reason that the workers with disabilities liked their job at Walmart is that they got to interact with so many people during their shift.
A few days ago, I heard about a basketball game that was played at a high school in Northern Indiana. One of the players on one of the teams is deaf and he uses an interpreter to communicate, as he has all season. At a game recently, one of the referees banned this young man’s interpreter from standing next to the coach; the result was that this particular player could not understand any of the conversations that were going on around him. That situation would be similar to having somebody around me suddenly go from speaking English to speaking Chinese and expecting me to understand what was being said without skipping a beat. It’s unrealistic to think that I would be able to do that since the only language I have ever known is English. One of the coaches tried to object, and his efforts got him a technical foul.
I have no idea how talented this young man is was when it comes to the game of basketball. He is obviously good enough that he made the team. What I do know is that this student had every right to participate in that game and use whatever accommodations he needed in order to do so.
The last time that I checked, the word “INCLUSION” had both an “I” and a “U” in it. To me, that is a very interesting coincidence.