During the course of my observations of various individuals that suffer from some form of physical disability, I noticed several interesting forms of behavior in the way they acted and the way they were treated by those around them. As it turns, most people who are considered disabled by society often don’t want to be viewed or treated as a person that suffers from a disability rather, they would like to be treated like everyone else.
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On the other end of the spectrum, people that don’t suffer from a disability showed two distinct forms of behavior when encountering someone that was disabled: they either offered to help when they noticed that person was encountering some form of difficulty in reaching a particular product or just chose to pretend that they didn’t see the disabled person at all. These observations and more will be detailed in this paper as part of my examination of the treatment of the disabled at a local Wholefoods supermarket.
Difficulties Encountered by the Disabled
First and foremost, I have to mention that based on my conversation with Michael, a wheelchair-bound basketball player that suffered a spinal injury as a young man, the disabled often don’t want to be referred to as being disabled. This is due to the fact that the term often has a certain negative connotation attached to it, and as such, they would prefer that you gloss over the topic of them being bound to a wheelchair or just call them handicapped.
Overall when going around the various aisles at Wholefoods, Michael mentioned several difficulties that the handicapped have when shopping by themselves. One of the initial difficulties they encounter is the fact that most of the popular brand named goods are situated at eye level, which unfortunately most wheelchairs bound people can’t reach without some difficulty or a certain degree of assistance.
Furthermore, during their shopping trips, they are often limited to a certain number of items that they can buy. The reason behind this is due to the fact that it would be hard for them to push a cart, and trying to go home while being laden down with several groceries is a good way to get into an accident. Not only that, they have to put up with the stares of several people as they shop around with the basket either on their hip or attached on a hook on the side of the wheelchair.
Overall though, he said that most grocery stores such as Whole foods are a good place to shop when you’re handicapped due to wheelchair accessibility and the fact that most of the staff are rather helpful when you make certain requests for items that you would have a hard time reaching. Based on my own observations of the location without Michael beside me, I do have to admit that his observations were indeed correct.
While he was shopping, I discreetly followed Michael from behind in order to observe the behavior of people as he shopped from aisle to aisle. Overall I observed that people were all too willing to help him as he went from one aisle to another, especially when he couldn’t reach a particular product. All too often, though, I did see several instances where people just stared or looked, then averted their eyes and just kept on moving forward as if they didn’t see anything. This difference in behavior regarding the disabled is, for me, the most interesting part of my experience in viewing observable human behavior since it helps to highlight the two different ways in which society chooses to acknowledge the disabled.
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Asking a Grocery Store Rep
Saying good-bye to Michael, I then proceeded to look around the supermarket to find a store representative that would be able to answer my questions regarding their internal procedures in dealing with the disabled. I was able to find Lawrence, an employee that has been working at Wholefoods for 6 months, and he was able to give me an insight into the inner workings of the store. Overall it turns out that the current policy of the store is to help out the disabled when needed but to not go out of their way to help them unless asked to.
As it turns out, the store does recognize that the disabled often want to be able to do things by themselves and that they should respect such behavior and only help when asked. Lawrence did say that he has helped a few disabled individuals shop in the past and often held their baskets or carts for them while they went from lane to lane. He did mention, though, that most of the time, the disabled individuals he encounters come with either a caregiver or a family member, and it is often the case that they don’t need help at all.
In fact, he mentioned that it was actually quite rare for cases such as Michael to shop by themselves. When asked regarding the positioning of products on the shelves, Lawrence replied that though the company would like to be of greater assistance in providing better product positioning for people inconvenienced by their disability, it is often the case that manufacturers pay a premium to have their most popular items prominently displayed at eye level.
On the other hand, Lawrence was quick to point out that there are usually several roving sales assistants going in between the various aisles, and should they notice someone in a wheelchair having difficulty reaching a particular product, it is often the case that they would lend their assistance immediately. Lastly I asked Lawrence if the store provided any special services for the disabled beyond individual assistance.
He mentioned that if a disabled person requests it a store rep can actually go lane to lane and get the items they need while they wait near the customer service booth. He mentioned though that this particular service has not been used that much lately. Towards the end of my conversation with Lawrence I asked him how other customers usually perceive the disabled as they shop. Based on his 6 months with the company he said that most people stare and keep quiet while a disabled person shops from time to time but customers tend to be rather helpful and some even offer to carry their baskets for them.