I used to drive one of the handicapped equipped vehicles at my local University. In retrospect, it was really stupid of them to just give us a different van and show us how to use the wheelchair elevator without any training whatsoever in regards to helping handicapped people. I went from taking student to their dorms, right to picking up handicapped people and delivering them wherever they wanted with as much additional training as I stated previously.
I met some really cool people, made some friends, and learned a lot about the daily lives of the people I assisted. I used to take this really cool blind guy to a bar, and pick him up when he was done. You could almost see the :rolleyes: on his guide dog’s face when he’d had a few too many. We were talking once about something artsy and I asked if he had read any Vonnegut :smack:. He said with out the least bit of annoyance “I don’t think they have any of his stuff on audio at the library”. I felt like a complete ass. He was really cool about it though.
One time I was taking Aaron home from work at the usual time, I think he had muscular dystrophy, I’m probably wrong though. I didn’t ask, people told me if it were important for me to know. Anyways, we were talking about new music (he worked at a really cool 3-story record store) and he stopped talking in mid sentence.
I was driving, and we were in a very dark area, so when I looked back all I could see was the silhouette of his wheelchair. I heard a strange noise and pulled over right away. I got in the back and saw that his head had somehow fallen forward and away from the padded guards around the headrest of his chair. He was struggling to breathe, and trying to tell me how to help. I gently raised his head towards the headrest. I had no idea whether or not I might be doing something that might snap his neck. I was scared shitless.
He was fine afterward. He said “You know you literally saved my life just then.” I said it was all part of the job and that I’d never let anything happen to any of the people in my care. I have never tried so hard to not cry in my life, but I did it. One of my friends almost died in the back of my van! That was rough.
Now, some might be saying to themselves “Gee, thanks **dnooman[/] for sharing, but what the fuck does this have to do with this Pit thread?”
Well, once I had a run to pick up two guys in wheelchairs. They wanted to go to a hotel that was maybe a quarter of a mile away. No problem.
These guys had some seriously high-tech wheelchairs, both electronic, both had various monitors and such on them. One had an acrylic box on it that collected mucosal drainage. Both guys had really distant looks in their eyes, but I treated them as I would any other person. I said “Hey guys. What’s up?”
The first guy’s mother was with him. She said in a very stern tone “He doesn’t speak!” I apologized, and asked what I could do to help. She then barked orders at me for everything from operating the wheelchair lift, securing the chairs, every aspect of how I was driving (1/4 mile distance) and of course the whole offloading process. She was mean the whole time. She basically implied that I was an asshole for even trying to talk to her son. I feel sorry for the guy. He has a physical disability, and has to listen to his Mom berate those that try their best to help him.
The waitress mentioned in the OP was at worst ignorant. She should be coached to be able to better deal with similar situations. The idea that she was trying to be malicious, or needs to be fired are just plain stupid. She needs to be educated. According to the OP, all she said was “Will a menu be necessary?” That’s enough to cost her her job? She was being diplomatic in an ignorant manner. Servers have committed far, far worse offenses and still retained their jobs.
The OP should have said something like “Yes, I’d like a menu”. The server would have realized the error of her supposition, possibly apologized, and all would be well. Well, maybe the OP would still be upset.
What should the public do? Ignore any and all physical or visual cues in regards to disability? Assume the worst? Talk to their companions only? Ask the person in question “what illness do you have?” No. These are all inappropriate.
There is no acceptable rule, nor can there be, for dealing with disabled people of unknown type. Nor is there any real approved, widely known, method of treating people of known disability. “Known disability” might also imply that people would make visual determinations about the condition of the people they need to interact with.
In short, it’s a crapshoot. One can offer a Braille menu to a guy with a white cane and red tip, and get “I’m just visually impaired! I can’t even read Braille!”
Or, he can ask what the guy wants and get “Didn’t you see the cane? I’m blind. Get me a Braille menu please.”
There is no “one way” to treat individuals with disabilities, except for treating them with respect. Unfortunately, being respectful results in people acting like assholes at times.
The actions of the waitress in the OP is not worthy of her losing her job. A pitting, perhaps, a cautionary example, certainly.