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Disability and Attitudinal Barriers, Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we explored some attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities face. We considered how attitudinal barriers are often due to false assumptions people have about life with a disability. Here, we will consider more examples of attitudinal barriers, and how to remove them.

Disability and Attitudinal Barriers 

Assuming that All Disabilities are the Same

Service providers sometimes assume that treating all customers equally means that every customer with a disability has the same service needs. For instance, they might assume that all customers with disabilities communicate using support persons. As a result, staff might always speak to a customer’s companion, instead of speaking directly to the customer. Similarly, they might tell every customer with a disability to use the elevator, rather than stairs. Likewise, they might assume that every customer can read large print, and refuse to offer information in other ways.

However, these guesses are also far from fact. People with different disabilities often have different service needs. For instance, some people communicate through support persons while others do not. Therefore, service providers should always speak directly to a customer with a disability. They should not start by asking another person questions about the customer with the disability. Similarly, some people always use elevators while others prefer stairs, especially if a stairless route is longer. Service providers can meet more customers’ needs if they point out all routes. Likewise, some customers find large print useful while others cannot use any print. Therefore, providers should never tell non-print-reading customers that they can only offer large print. Instead, they should work with customers to find other ways of offering information accessibly, such as by reading aloud.

Invisible Disabilities

Another assumption service providers sometimes make is that all disabilities are visible. In other words, providers may expect to see that someone has a disability because they use an assistive device or a service animal. Therefore, service providers might believe that only someone who looks disabled can use services for people with disabilities. For instance, they might question why a customer who can walk without a cane has an accessible parking pass. Likewise, they might ask a customer who looks sighted why they need staff to read something aloud.

However, many people with disabilities do not use assistive devices or service animals. Instead, their disabilities are invisible. Nonetheless, these disabilities are real. For instance, someone may use an accessible parking pass because they have a heart condition that limits their stamina. Similarly, someone may ask staff to read aloud because they have a learning disability affecting how they process print.

Removing Attitudinal Barriers

The removal of other types of barriers may be costly or time-consuming. In contrast, businesses should not need much money or time to remove attitudinal barriers. Instead, they can start removing these barriers by exposing staff to truthful information about people with disabilities. For example, businesses can choose to offer forms of AODA training that allow staff to discuss what they learn. Discussion-based training can help staff learn more about the daily lives of people with disabilities. Moreover, businesses can invite people with disabilities to visit their premises and speak to their staff. These arrangements can give staff accurate knowledge about how to interact with customers and workers who have disabilities. These customers and workers will do more business with staff who respect them while recognizing their needs.