A Less Ableist Culture Could Help Businesses Too

CN: Ableism, capitalism

Businesses these days are highly dependent on good reviews. A positive score on Yelp, Amazon, or Trip Advisor can make or break a small business. For service industry businesses like restaurants, retail, and hospitality this can create some unique conflicts. Specifically, not everything people include in their reviews is easy for the business to control, and customers interactions with other customers can have an unexpectedly large impact on review scores.

When customers hold a business accountable for the behavior of other customers, this can have good impacts. It can help encourage a bar to kick out men who are overly creepy to women, or give a reason for a hotel to ask a very loud party group to be quiet or leave. When customer reviews help keep businesses from participating in oppression, or help them to keep rude people in check, this is great!

However, the expectations of customers can also carry bigotry of their own. Customers can, and do, let their own prejudices influence their view of a business, and can bring down the rating of businesses because the perceive them as having too many people of color, or too many queer people, or too many poor people. This can put pressure on a business to be more oppressive, rather than less.

This problem becomes particularly stark when businesses deal with customers who are disabled in various ways, especially those with mental illness or disabilities that make people behave in strange ways. As a result of cultural ableism, many people become incredibly uncomfortable when they encounter someone behaving strangely. If they check into a hotel, and there is someone pacing and talking to themselves, the customer’s whole experience is influenced by the discomfort they have with the possibly mentally ill person. When an autistic child makes noise in a theater, the rest of the audience has reactions to that, and most of those reactions are bad.

Different, disabled, and ill people should have access to businesses and experiences just like everyone else. That child has a right to attend the theater and the person talking to themselves has a right to stay in a hotel. If the general public becomes less ableist and more understanding of all disabilities, but especially those that are related to the kinds of behaviors that make neurotypical people uncomfortable, this will mean businesses will not suffer when they serve disabled customers. Businesses have a responsibility to serve all customers equally, and those that do so will be more successful when their customers recognize that.

I encourage service industry businesses to strive to serve disabled customers well, and also to work with disabled communities to decrease ableism in the general culture. It will help those businesses in the long run when all of their customers understand that we all have rights, even when our behavior may seem strange.

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A Less Ableist Culture Could Help Businesses Too
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3 thoughts on “A Less Ableist Culture Could Help Businesses Too

  1. 1

    “That [Autistic] child has a right to attend the theater.”

    Just as much as any other paying customer who is willing and capable of following the theater’s rules, sure!

    But people aren’t saying that Autistic children “have no right” to go to the theater.

    What people are objecting to, and rightly so, is certain behaviors that ruin the movie for everyone, such as screaming, yelling, shrieking, and overly loud talking (none of which is limited to the disabled population). The same sort of things that get able-bodied people asked to leave, really.

    “Businesses have a responsibility to serve all customers equally…”

    And customers have a responsibility to respect and follow the rules if they wish to continue patronizing that particular establishment. Disability (and while I’m at it, age) is no excuse for behaving in a manner that is actively disruptive to other customers.

    PS: Love the auto-preview!

    1. 1.1

      Well, thank you I guess for displaying exactly the kind of ableism that causes these problems.

      The thing is, the definition of disruptive HAS to change. So many people consider anything “weird” to be disruptive. They want the guy talking to himself in the hotel lobby to be kicked out. We have to be far more comfortable with a wider range of behaviors. Sure, when someone starts shouting in a theater you remove them – but an audience has got to stop being so outraged about it. You don’t say “that parent never should have brought that child to this theater!” because you don’t know the circumstances at all. You don’t write a bad review for a restaurant because a group near you struggles with table manners or vocal volume.

      The PRESENCE of weirdness shouldn’t be considered disruptive, and definitely shouldn’t be blamed on businesses who have a responsibility to all of their customers – including disabled ones.

  2. 2

    First off, it’s not at all ableist to insist on an equal application of behavioral rules. Rather, not applying the rules equally to disabled people is ableist, as it actively promotes the idea that we disabled people are incapable of truly being part of society.

    Second, I never said the PRESENCE of weirdness was a bad thing, nor did I say weirdness in and of itself was disruptive. I’m disabled, myself, and extremely weird.

    I just get tired of a specific subset of parents who use their child’s disability as an excuse to straight up ignore rules, and make demands of others that go way beyond the reasonable accommodations that are required by law. Why? Because it makes us disabled people look bad!

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