Monday, April 9, 2018

When you're grateful for the person with disabilities working at the store

I'm not usually overcome with emotion when I go to Home Depot, but that's what happened this weekend. Sabrina and I were down at the Jersey Shore on a girls' trip, and as she was taking a nap I ran out to get a few things and made a pit stop to pick up some paint.

When I walked in, there was an elderly woman in a motorized wheelchair greeting customers.

"Hi, can I help you find something?" she asked.

Her voice and speech pattern sounded like Max's, except hers was slightly clearer.

"I'm good—I know my way around, thanks!" I said.

As I walked off, a rush of emotion hit.

— I was deeply grateful that this Home Depot employed someone with disabilities. It's sadly not that common to see people with disabilities working in stores.

— I was grateful that this woman had such a visible presence. The more people see those with disabilities employed and interact with them, the better for people to understand their competence and worth. Yes, worth. Because most of us who have family members with disabilities have seen that some people out there just don't get it. What our loved ones often do get are pity stares, the kind that have made it clear to me that people don't understand Max's merits and can only see what they consider unfortunate deficits.

— I felt pangs of concern about Max's work future. Could he do a job like that? Would he want to? Would people have the patience for him to type out words on his speech app? Probably not, although maybe by then there will be faster technology. That or we'll have electronic chips implanted in our heads that will tell us everything we need to know.

I stood in an aisle, processing all this. I found the can of spray paint I needed and went to check out.

"I have something to ask you," I said to the staffer at the register. "I have a son with disabilities, and I was happy to see that woman in the front greeting people. How long has she been working here?"

"Oh, Dee's been around for ten years, maybe twelve," she said. "She's great! The store employs some other people with disabilities, too."

"That is really good to hear," I said.

I walked outside. I took a deep breath, then another. I got in the car and drove off, and as I did I thought how awesome it would have been if Max was there to see Dee, too.

Photo: Flickr/spycomps


  1. This is such a touching story! I often feel the same way when I see people with disabilities working in stores or other places in the community. It truly touches my heart!


  2. Ellen....
    There is a young man that works at our local movie theatre who has special needs!! He sits in his wheelchair, rips apart ticket stubs and tells us where to go!! Since I have personally known a few people with cerebral palsy, I think that is what this young man has!! He always asks us which movie we are planning to see, then he smiles!! When this young man is not doing his job {which he does very well!!}, I have observed him rocking back and forth in his wheelchair!! ;)
    Peace out, Mary Lou

  3. We I went to my local Home Depot (MA) there was a young woman in a wheelchair chair there to greet me and help me find what I needed. May be a coincidence but I am wondering if Home Depot as a corporation is more inclusive, and if yes they should definitely be recognized for that, as it is not yet the norm as it should be!

  4. The cashier who checked me out at Lowes over the weekend had some disabilities and the store had provided him with some adaptations and technology to be able to do the job! The Sam's Club up here also employs people with disabilities. The young man who is often greeting people at the door and checking membership cards is in a wheelchair. We connected last summer while I was first in a wheelchair and then walking with forearm crutches and he always comments on how much progress I've made :)


Thanks for sharing!

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