Author: Tony Trott
I rely heavily on technology, especially my computer to communicate and to perform my work for our company. A couple of weeks ago I plugged in a wire to the USB port on the side of my computer and it did a complete shutdown. Once I got it up and running, after much work, none of the USB ports were operable. We spent hours on the phone with Geek Squad for tech support and did not come up with a resolution to resolve this problem. So, we made an appointment to go to the local Best Buy store so they could have it in their hands to work on.
I dropped off the computer and waited for a call. We finally got notice that the USB ports were not operable and that instead of fixing my computer, it was recommended to buy a new one. While I was not happy about having to spend money, my laptop was nearly at the end of its life and needed a bigger screen anyway. Yes, age has not been kind to my eyes. We went back to Best Buy and looked around. My wife and I both use wheelchairs and when we were looking for computers, we noticed that there was a gentleman in wheelchair working for Best Buy. I did a silent bravo in my mind and found myself watching him do his work. It made me want to spend money at Best Buy because of their obvious interest in hiring individuals with disabilities.
Then I took a step back. Why should I be staring at him and watching him perform his work? Don’t I believe that individuals with disabilities can work like anybody else? And should I find it so unique that a company has hired an individual who uses a wheelchair?
I came to a mixed conclusion. Yes, it was important for me to recognize that Best Buy employed this individual and that they recognized he could do the work. At the same time, it shouldn’t be a big deal. As a wheelchair user and advocate for individuals with disabilities, I should not feel like, “Oh wow, this is awesome! An individual with a disability works here!”
The moral of the story to me is that it should be the norm not the exception that individuals with disabilities are in the workplace. I shouldn’t have a second thought about seeing this gentleman. An individual shopping at Best Buy shouldn’t think twice about who is serving them and what their physical capacity is. I hope that you take notice when you shop in a store as to whether individuals with disabilities that are apparent are employed there. They may employ individuals with not apparent disabilities as well. But seeing individuals with physical disabilities doing the work is important. The unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is 52%. Remote work has helped bring the number down to 50% at the height of the pandemic, but it is slowly increasing.
It’s time to change that paradigm. If you are a business owner, consider hiring individuals with disabilities because of their strength of character, ability to deal with obstacles, and if in the right circumstances, loyalty to the organization. It is not extra work. Don’t second guess. Just do it. And by the way, I am loving my new computer.