Recently I was telling a family member about an experience I had looking for an apartment a few years back. I had just graduated with my Master’s Degree and had taken a well-paying job (well, more well-paying than anything I’d ever had before) in Salt Lake. I grew up in a suburb of SLC and had always dreamed of living in a high-rise apartment in the middle of the city. Since I can remember, that was my “dream home”. My mom and I set out to find my dream apartment. There is a fancy outdoor mall in downtown SLC where they had built high-rise apartments right above the mall, right in the middle of the city. If you know me, you know this is PERFECTION! That would be are first stop, no questions asked. My mom and I walked in the front door to the leasing office, it was busy and one lady seemed to be helping everyone. I stood and waited with a big grin on my face, my dream was about to become reality. I really could care less how small the place was, this was it! I was practically dancing around in my shoes!
The lady finally stepped aside and walked up to me and said the following, “I’m sorry sweetie, we don’t do section 8 housing here, you can’t afford this place!”
To say I was in utter shock would have been an understatement, I was frozen in dis-belief. I had become a very confident, out-spoken, independent BLIND woman and my anger was at the boiling point (understandably if I do say so myself). I walked out the door without saying a word. Do I wish I would have given her a piece of my mind right there and then, HECK YES I do! I stood outside and let loose on my mom. WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED???
I had heard of things like this happening but like many people think, I thought this was so out of the norm and would most certainly NEVER EVER happen to me! I turned to my mom (who was also trying to swallow what just happened). She convinced me to go back in and at least see the apartment, after all I had longed for this apartment for so long. I did go up and see the apartment, arms folded, biting my tongue, and with a whole different demeanor than when I first walked in. There was NO WAY IN HELL I was renting that apartment now! I was furious inside. All my hard work. All my years of school. All my accomplishments to that point, she stomped all over! I was so hurt and ANGRY, oh boy was I angry! Needless to say, I found a BETTER apartment in a beautiful building in downtown SLC and I LOVED living there, but this memory still crosses my mind every time I walk past that building.
Many of us think that discrimination is a thing of the past, we fought that battle and we won, right!?! Recent events in our country have brought up much discussion on the topic/issue of discrimination…and I don’t think it’s a bad thing that we’re talking about it! People with disabilities STILL face discrimination today in big and small ways, well really, they’re all big. Perhaps because of recent national events, we are more aware of this happening in our world, and we get more fired up when we see if affect people around us. People with disabilities face discrimination often, and rarely does it make the news at all. A couple of stories recently showcase the fact that blind people are facing discrimination, and yes, that’s exactly what it is.
I hope you’ll take the time to read these two stories:
The first, I lovingly call Noodle-Gate 2014, because it got A LOT of coverage (which it should have) involved a school district in Kansas City taking the cane of an 8-year-old blind boy and replacing it with a pool noodle—in the name of bad behavior. The school district has since apologized for their grave mistake. The story has got people talking about an important issue involving blind children. What are your thoughts on this story?
The 2nd is a story of a sweet friend of mine and her boyfriend denied access on public transportation in Washington.
The stories may seem like simple mistakes, but the reality is, they lead down a dark path for people with disabilities. In a daily struggle to beat the odds, and not to become part of the 70% unemployment rate among the blind, we fight daily for access to the same things as our sighted counterparts. Discrimination is not just about race, religion or socio-economic status, people with disabilities must be included in these discussions!
This stuff DOES still happen and we have to make the issues heard loud and clear and not sit idly by.