Recently I spent a night at an upscale airport area hotel. As the normally bustling hotel was empty of travelers due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I had an opportunity to observe the details of hotel life which are usually obscured by the frenetic environment.
While I was having an early breakfast, a man with a movement disorder came into the restaurant. He was immediately set upon by several staff who hustled him off to a remote table. When he elected to dine from the breakfast buffet, these same staff shadowed him at a distance, but never interacting. Another individual brought his food choices to his table from the buffet where the “shadowing” individuals placed his food in a location on the other side of the table, barely within his reach making his attempt to eat an impossible task.
When he would periodically engage in an involuntary movement of his torso, head and arms, they would back away to a ten foot perimeter until his movements would subside and then reform their ranks to surround his table.
He was dressed in business garb and obviously was no stranger to travel. Yet the personnel in the hotel’s restaurant felt obligated to screen him from the public and, in essence, make him invisible. As a professional who works with individuals with disabilities to enhance inclusion, it was striking that this individual was made subject to isolation on the basis of his movement disorder. I was disappointed to see that making a person invisible remains society’s response to an individual with a disability.