Dis Able

He held the door.

Walking out of a downtown office building this morning, the custodian opened the door for a woman who was just entering. Hey, I'd have done it too. In the South we open doors for women from 8-80. Tats, piercings or power suit, it doesn't matter. That's how we roll.

Oddly enough, after she entered and I began to leave he went back to cleaning the other door (side by side glass doors) and made no effort to open the heavy plate glass unit for me.

As it happens, its not that big a deal, but there's more to the story (thank you Paul Harvey.)

Several weeks ago I tore some muscles in my left biceps: I like to work out hard and fight through the pain and truthfully I can't say it was the gym that hurt me, but torn muscles take a while to heal. The bottom line is I don't have much use for my left arm and haven't for weeks.

I managed to back through the door looking funny as hell I'm sure, but I made it okay. With my right arm full with tablet and phone it was the best I could do. The custodian looked at me, and slowly it registered with him that I couldn't use the door. Even though I 'looked' able I couldn't.

He made an embarrassed face and I smiled to let him know it was okay.


This vingette made me wonder how often we make assumptions about others' abilities without verifying if they need help.

Yes, we have law in the US protecting this, but there's more to it. Do we make it comfortable for people to reach out and tell us about their constraints, or do we make it a challenge adding extra and needless hoops to the process?

And what about disability that goes beyond the scope of law which is, after all, de minimus? What about employees, vendors and contractors that don't know our culture, don't know our values, expectations, tools, processes and practice? Do we make it easy for these people to let us know they're not able?

To some of us, its a badge of honor to be thrown in the deep end of the pool without the support structures we need and told to sink or swim. We seem to take perverse pride in succeeding despite the environment not because of it.

Is that really smart though?

Ability and able come in many forms and factors. Sustaining an environment where its difficult if not impossible to raise questions about ability isn't anything at all like survival of the fittest: its simply another step on the road to obscurity. Organizations simply can't compete if they don't have access to and benefit of the resources of all their people.

One day my arm will get better. But I have other areas in my life where I'm not able. I hope to always work with clients and employers that will accept those, and allow me to contribute to my fullest.

I hope your expereince is the same.

Let's do what we can to make able-ness a reality for all.



2 thoughts on “Dis Able

  1. Christopher, it goes beyond that… especially in DC. I stumbled on an escalator; before I could right myself, a man in business clothes pushed past me, knocking me the rest of the way over. I could give you endless examples.
    However, karma does come home to roost — sometimes in charming ways.
    Today as I limped (recently had a bad sprain to my ankle plus bruised ribs) toward the very slow elevator in the parking garage, there was a woman ahead of me by about 15 feet. She looked at me, and hustled into the elevator and quickly closed the doors. I waited for the other one for several minutes… held the door for a gentleman who was on his way around the corner, and then we had a non-stop trip to the ground floor… AND arrived at the same time as the rude woman (hers had stopped on every floor).

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