Respect Those With Learning Disabilities –  by Blaine Elmore

Early on in my childhood I didn’t have many friends, even though most kids were very kind towards me. It’s just that I have always kept a very small circle of people very close to me in life, and one of the best people I keep around is Devin. Devin is a man who works at our grocery store, and he has autism and a learning disability. For the most part, everyone is fully accepting of Devin at our store and we treat him as we would treat anyone else. He’s thoughtful, often hilarious, and genuinely a great worker who takes care of his fellow associates. Every encounter begins with him asking you a question or telling a joke. By the end of the encounter, he will always leave you with a fist bump that will always feel just as sweet as the last. Devin lives life like the rest of us and he doesn’t like feeling dependent on others, so it was a big deal when he was finally going to get his own drivers license. As someone with many family members who are disabled, many of them only wish to have that level of freedom.

With this new found freedom Devin came in every day with an impossibly large presence. By the end of our shifts he would walk me over to his car to check it out. It was a big moment for him, and eventually everyone in the store heard about it. Around this time I distinctly remember a conversation with Devin regarding a crush he had on a woman we worked with, and if he should buy her something nice. I was surprised by Devin and how bold he had become, I simply told him not to worry about buying anything yet, but to talk to her and see what happens from there. I’m left with a nod and a fist bump as I go off to rest after our long day at the store. After a few days of coming into work I see Kailey at the register without a bagger, so I go up to help bag. “Did you hear that Devin has a crush on me?”. She laughed and poked fun at the idea of them even being together for a multitude of reasons. This bothered me as there was no reason for her to air that situation out to the whole store, it’s petty and honestly not fair to Devin who has never been in this situation before.

Eventually that day I make my way to Devin to warn him about what Kailey is telling everyone, he wasn’t too thrilled. I offered my opinion as to how he should handle the situation. Devin felt like he was being laughed at, and it bothered all of us very deeply. However, he still seemed to want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but he declared to move on from it. Things got quiet regarding that situation for a few weeks. Just as we all had let our guard down, in comes Devin off the clock delivering Smoothie King and lunch for Kailey. All of us there that day were perplexed and had several questions for both. We decided to give it a few more days to better understand the situation. A week or so later one of the managers was having a casual conversation with Kailey in which she admitted to using Devin to get free lunch and money whenever she needed it. As the story broke out among the store we all became infuriated and each of us would pull Devin to the side to each try and get our two cents in. You see Devin wanted this so badly for himself, and I distinctly remember the situation pushing him to tears as the manager explained it to him.

Devin would take off work, having his shifts covered for a few days, but in the meantime many of us at the store got together to tell management what was happening. No matter the extent we went to, human resources was only ever threatened to Kailey. There were never any repercussions to her actions, and it still bothers all of us to this day. Situations like this cannot be tolerated as it’s beyond unfair treatment to those with learning disabilities. Kailey saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of above everything else, so she lied about her intentions as she knew Devin took everyone’s words for a fact. This kind of situation only happens when someone is perceived as being lesser, which is ethically wrong to take advantage of in any situation. I hate imagining her telling her friends about the situation and laughing at Devin’s expense. He’s a great person, who never should have gone through this. There must be swift action to those who take advantage of anyone with a disability, whether that means suspension, transferring stores, etc. There must also be more awareness to these kinds of situations, like management pulling aside coworkers for individual meetings that covers the topic and possible ramifications if caught doing such.

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