I was told in a conversation, yesterday, that I was having with someone about discrimination and lack of access for people with disabilities, that I needed to be more understanding and tolerant. To be fair, I didn't just launch into this, he had heard that I had raised a complaint regarding a business that he had a sideways connection with. I was a bit surprised because I wasn't aware that my complaint had been actually heard by anyone, let alone made it to gossip status. Here's the top three things he told me:
1) I had to understand that there is no such thing as intentional prejudice against people with disabilities.
2) Sometimes people don't think before they speak but there is no maliciousness in people's language or attitude towards people with disabilities.
3) People with disabilities have become far too sensitive and have lost an understanding about what's actually possible in regards to access.
I looked at him, dumbfounded, and before I could respond, he had to return to his seat. We had met just before a show was about to start. I know he didn't do it on purpose but it was like he figured the exact amount of time he had to fill me in on the errors of my ways and finish up just when it was impossible for me to rebut.
We've met him before. He didn't then know of my complaint. I didn't know of his connection to the business. He'd always been very nice and easy to chat with. Both Joe and I liked him and enjoyed seeing him at the odd event that we all attended.
In the end, I think I might be grateful to him, I think he may have, in a few minutes, outlined how most people think about disability issues. Prejudice doesn't exist. There are no attitudinal barriers. The physical barriers - well, they are unfortunate but you can't expect them to be changed.
I'm so glad I have occasion to run into typicals who can give me brief courses in Disability Studies. I can learn so much if I listen. And I did listen. And I did learn. But, I'm afraid, he'd be shocked to know what knowledge he passed on to me.