People living with disabilities often experience what Carol Glazer calls “The Tyranny of Low Expectations.” Carol’s son Jacob was born with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, and over the last 20+ years, Carol and Jacob have encountered the low expectations that society heaves upon people with both physical and mental disabilities, especially when it comes to employment expectations.
“The bar on expectations for [someone living with a disability] is often set so low by doctors, teachers, friends and even families that the person with a disability lives with artificially low ceilings...rooted in our societal approach to disability, which has historically been viewed as a problem to be fixed (and in many cases feared or isolated), versus a natural part of the human condition that each of us is likely to encounter in our lives.”
While the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States gives people living with disabilities the right to participate in all aspects of life, including employment, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to do so, Carol says that because society has not yet raised the low-set bar of expectations, most people living with a disability often receive signals that they “cannot really expect to work, or learn or participate equally.”
Carol admits that many of these signals given off by members of society are unintentional. Still, “when the world doesn’t expect much of you, it’s hard to expect much of yourself,” she shares.
What can be done? Carol shares her thoughts:
“Those of us with a personal experience of disability know that people with disabilities possess unique problem-solving skills, tenacity, resilience and creativity. Employers must understand the benefits of a diverse society that uses the talents of its citizens to full advantage. We must change attitudes and see strengths—not limitations. We must convert pity to high expectations and help corporate America to recognize promising talent.”
And most importantly, we must change our expectations.
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