Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'A' before 'D': Abilities before Disabilities - applies to Everyone.

Was updating the sgLEAD blog when I came across this blog post by Mathia Lee. She wrote how she was impressed by the efficiency and abilities of two persons with disabilities, and also with the people who hired them:

When I went to the Vatican a few months ago I was super impressed. The guy who sold us tickets at the counter had 2 fingers only, and he was just handling all the transactions amazingly fast, no different from othr counters, and the queue was miles long but it cleared really fast.

The cloak room was run by just one guy and he had Downs’ syndrome (or some sort of other social disability) and everything was in perfect order, and so efficiently managed.

Made me think:

It’s inevitable that some people, if not most, will see the disability before the person or their abilities.

Whether or not they are prejudiced, or whatever reactions thereafter, is besides the point. Just saying it's inevitable that most of us will see the disability first.

I suspect it's because obvious displays of disabilities mean being apart from the norm. Anything outside of the norm tends to get noticed first.

So, a person with disability should try even harder to demonstrate their abilities, as a way to counter (unconscious) prejudice. I would think this principle of showing one’s abilities (not “showing off” per se) applies to everyone, regardless of physical or mental abilities. Just that a person with disabilities has to try harder.

Equally inevitable is that some people with physical disabilities deliberately present their disabilities first. Perhaps to appeal to other people’s emotions and sense of pity. Maybe these people think doing so is the only option for them. I’m not saying if this is right or wrong. Just saying this seems to be another observable fact.

Yet, for those 'within the norm', we need to be reminded that we all have some disability to some extent. It’s only a matter of degree.

Some time ago, a colleague pointed out to me that if you wear glasses or contact lenses, you have a sight-disability.

Except there's so many people who need their vision corrected, so we're within the norm. But it's still, by definition, a physical disability nonetheless.

I'd like to think that most decent people would not choose to focus on a person's disability. And most people are decent. Just that in the absence of any demonstration of abilities, they'd only see the disability.

So in the end, it’s about how we consciously choose to demonstrate our abilities.

Some people have it easier, while others have to try harder.

But we all have to.

[First blogged at sgLEAD]


  1. Anonymous3:09 p.m.

    My rambling thoughts :)

    I agree that it's 'natural' and inevitable that people see the disability first. If I come across someone with no legs on a wheelchair, the first thought that strikes me will be, yes, "Oh, this chap has no legs." (To put it crudely.)

    I doubt very much though, from my own experience and in the context of my own disability (deafness) and in the case of other deaf people, that "some" of us will "deliberately present their disabilities first". I'm not sure for people with other forms of disabilities, but in my case and I believe, most other deaf people, it's very counter-productive -- something we learn very early on. Especially when it comes to employment prospects. Almost all the time, it kills our chances right there and then.

    We all have to try to consciously show our abilities, that's true, to be noticed, to get that job, to be promoted and so on. If, having done that, people with disabilities still cannot convince others, many times, it's because 'normal' people cannot see past the disability in the first place. And how exactly can people with disabilities demonstrate their abilities, especially if they are never given the chance to? For some, sure, they're accomplished or talented in an art, a skill or have won awards, but they are the rare exceptions, as is the case for most people. (We're not all award-winning visually-impaired singers.)

    So to your statement, which I agree with, I'll add this bit more:

    "So in the end, it’s about how we consciously choose to demonstrate our abilities. And it's equally about how open people are and accepting of others who are different."

    -- le petit prince

  2. Hey le petit prince, thanks for the thoughtful commentary. Ideally employers should put the candidates' abilities before their disabilities. Though reality is that there will be those who are prejudiced. I guess those are the employers whom you'd better not have as an employer.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    I hope that you do not mind that I share this with my EdPsych2 classes (

  4. Hi Ashley, I don't mind at all. In fact, thanks for sharing with others.


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