My Response to Those Who Disrespect People With Disabilities

Respect is something nearly everyone desires, and in many cases we demand it. We are human and we work hard. We want to be recognized for our contributions to society and admired by the people we work for. However, I believe respect is something that is earned and not just handed to us on a silver platter. Respect, while an admirable quality, is not always earned in an easy fashion. In a world full of violence, bullying, and insecurities, we are often prone to see the opposite of respect, which is disrespect, in at least one form or another.

This is a very unfortunate situation. Especially at risk are those with disabilities. I can recount many situations where I was treated unfairly strictly based on my physical differences. I was laughed at, called names, and pushed around. I am 33 years old. These incidences happened many years ago, in some cases decades, but they still can hurt and sting. How you are treated often never fades away. It is almost as if they have placed their behaviors on a sticky note and stuck it on your brain. This is a perfect example of people who demand respect, but when treating people as they do, cannot be expected to receive it. Maybe they will be commended by people who have similar aims, but they will certainly not earn it from me.

Even in today’s day and time, I have seen numerous clips of disabled patrons treated very poorly.  In the era of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, we have access to stories of maltreatment at our fingertips. Recently, in fact, I happened to come across a video that showed evidence of a young man with cerebral palsy being made fun of because he had a slightly unusual gait. In this video, the person making fun of him started walking like him and laughing. Then when the individual who was the target of the abuse approached him, the man making fun of him punched the disabled man square in the face. The police were called and the man who was doing the tormenting was subsequently arrested.

I cannot begin to imagine how this incident must have affected the disabled young man, both personally and physically. We as disabled individuals often have enough pain to deal with already. No matter how hard I try, I will never quite wrap my head around people who make it their main mission to put a stain in someone’s life. As someone concerned very much with the social welfare of people and their feelings, I try my utmost to understand why someone would act so viciously. Honestly, the only thing I can come up with is lack of nurturing and understanding in their home environment. This is not an excuse for this kind of behavior, but may be some insight as to why they would dare behave in a way that is designed to hurt others. Another possible motive is complete lack of self-esteem. Some people who feel bad about themselves hurt others to make themselves feel better.

If you are thinking that that way of thinking is twisted and unacceptable, you are not alone. Humans are a very complicated species, and as much as we want to understand each other, this disconnect seems to happen no matter what your background in life. Unfortunately, I suppose some things are not meant to be understood. Despite all of this, my motto in life has always been if you are nice to me, I’ll be nice to you in return. I really do not take anything else into account. I grew up being told to love people and treat them with respect if that is how they approach me.

I believe respect can be earned, but you do have to work for it to be returned to you. Disrespect is a sure-fire way to never gain what you are looking for in others. You may be a hard worker, but your hard work means nothing when you treat others badly. One last piece of advice I have for those of you looking to gain respect: Remember the golden rule. Treat others how you would want to be treated!

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