I think individuals with disabilities (especially visible disabilities) tend to be an afterthought in mainstream society. I consider housing discrimination (my own apartment building does not have an elevator but has three floors), special education inefficiencies (separate classes for disabled students), and unemployment gaps. In my perspective, disabled individuals receive unwarranted pity. I think it’s stereotypical to think a disabled person lives a poor quality of life b/c of their disability. This type of thinking further drives that stigmatization.
I worked as a coordinator for a University disability support office for three years and saw that most disabled students wanted to be regarded the same as everyone else. I think this can be tricky in a counseling session, however. If a new patient comes into my practice, and is missing an arm, but requests counsel about an issue completely separate from her missing arm, is it rude to not address the disability? Is addressing her disability necessary if she doesn’t say anything about it? But at what point does it become “the elephant in the room?” Navigating those waters as a Therapist, at least when it comes to visible disabilities, will be interesting for me. I laugh when feeling uncomfortable, and would hate for a disabled person to feel like I’m laughing AT them. That could harm them and certainly wouldn’t look good for my business’s reputation.
As always, competence is important in the helping profession. These clients will trust my clinical expertise, and it would behoove me to know how to handle my own uncomfortableness.