Unconscious Bias Concerning People With Disabilities

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Unconscious bias is a positive or a negative mental attitude that one is unaware they have towards another person or thing. When you first meet a person with a disability what is your first reaction, do you recognize the person first before their disabilities? MERCY GICHUNGE talked to several people with disabilities in an open forum to share some of the awkward actions, statements or questions they have come across. Their responses show that as a society we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding issues of disabilities.

Q1. Do you go to bed with those calipers/artificial leg?
All mobility assistive devices like calipers are meant to help in mobility and are therefore
removed when going to bed.

Q2: Are you sure, you really know where you are going?
(This was asked by the conductor to a person with a disability.)
Having a disability doesn’t equate to foolishness.

Q3: Are you drunk?

(This was asked to someone with cerebral palsy.)One of the effects of having cerebral palsy is that it affects one’s walking stability.

Q4: I usually love people like you.
This statement is meant to be a compliment to someone with a disability. However, by saying people like you, it means you are already profiling and stigmatizing persons with disabilities.

Q5: You are an inspiration.
Disability is not inspirational and doing what ought to be done like working hard or excelling in school should be treated normally.

Q6. Which dog impregnated you? (This was said to a woman with a disability who was a pregnant woman.)
This means the person doesn’t expect a woman with a disability to be in a relationship and consent to sex like any human being.

Q7: You donít have faith!
This is when a person with a disability walks into the church during prayer time and the pastor keeps calling out for anyone who wants to be healed to walk to the dais. When she doesn’t walk up to the dais, the pastor points at where she is seated or the ushers push her
forward. And when the healing doesn’t happen she is accused of lacking faith.

Q8: Persons with a hearing impairment (deaf) being referred to ENT.
This is when someone is trying to minimize a disability by not referring to it with the
seriousness and truth it deserves.

Q9. When someone just drops some coins next to a person with a disability.
This is an assumption that all persons with disabilities are beggars or need financial help.

Q9: Can you feed yourself?
This is in reference to a visually impaired person, after being served. For people with visual impairment, you only need to orient them on what is on the plate and they can feed themselves.

Q10: You are too beautiful to be deaf, are your children like you?
This insinuates that someone with a disability can’t be beautiful. This is a very wrong perception of beauty.

Q11: How do you even shower?
That’s a rude question and an invasion of one’s privacy.

Q12: Who will pay for these?
This is when a person with a disability who is especially using clutches or a white cane picks items in the supermarket or as they get to the door of a good restaurant the
security personnel stops and reminds him that begging is not allowed.

Q13: Do you have a boyfriend and does he have a disability too?
This is an assumption that persons with disabilities cannot be in a relationship and when they do they only have a relationship with other persons with a disability.

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