We all notice disabilities. Whether we admit it or not, we become aware of a person's disability either through visible signs or sometimes, when talking to someone and you realise all is not quite right because many disabilites are not obvious.
We would all like to believe that, although we notice disabilities , we do not discriminate against them. The fact that we notice them, however shows that it is natural for us to notice. In the days of a hunter-gatherer society, it would have been an advantage for us to notice and could have had importance in times of trouble but we, as modern people, go to extremes to believe that we no longer discriminate.
All too often I still see people speaking to those in wheelchairs in a loud voice and ever-so-slowly as if speaking like this will help anyone - disabled or not- to understand someone clearly. They are also assuming that physical disability means mental disability, which is only true in some cases and even then, adopting the slow speaking, loud voice is no help whatsoever.
Even worse however is then we discriminate against those whose disability is not obivous. People with autism or Asperger's Syndrome are often socially isolated because people consider their lack of eye contact or their social difficulties as rude. They do not take the time to try to understand and instead, find it easier to ignore or reject them.
Disabled people are stil discriminated against simply because people lack thought or consideration. Most people are not nasty or mean and would, if they thought about it, want to include eveyone but sadly, life is fast paced and many simply forget that there are those who need a little bit of help physically or to understand a situation.
From the start of life upwards, we are taught to include everyone and racism, one of the worst causes of discrimination, simply due to the color of a person's skin or culture, is largely behind us in many areas (although I am sure some would disagree) but discrimination against people with a disability seems a harder nut to crack because we do not want to have to make allowances or change the way we do things, or build buildings to accomodate those who, for the vast majority of modern society's history, have had little say in these matters.
However, things are changing. There are many societies and charities which now support disability, whether physical or less visible. There are societies for the blind, deaf, physically disabled, autism and many others and it is an offence to discriminate against anyone with a disability.
However, there are exceptions and it made me smile at the lack of thought the other week when I saw a poor lady sitting outside a disabled toilet. The signs to this facility had been clearly set out from quite a away off. The only problem was that , once you reached the door, the handle was far too high to be reached from a wheel chair. She looked at me as I opened the door for her (promising to wait so she could get out) and said, 'you see my dear, other people still assume us cripples will always have someone 'able' with us to 'look after' us. How sad that in this modern age, the fitter had not considered the people he was putting the handle in for. And even sadder, how sad that I did not do something about it!