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Why do people think that because we have a facial disfigurement or disability that somehow we are lacking some brain cells? A disfigurement or disability hasn’t diminished our mind in any way, but you’d never guess that from the assumptions and actions of other people.

This is a common complaint by those with facial disfigurements. We’re not dumb, and most of us are also not hard of hearing. It’s extraordinary how some people will talk about us in our presence as if we weren’t there. Like the woman who contacted me recently to say how angry she was when two shop assistants were discussing her face well within earshot. Can you believe the ignorance of people? Apart from being appalling bad manners and very unprofessional for staff meant to be dealing with customers, it is very dehumanising and hurtful to the woman.

It would be nice to think the above action was a one-off. Unfortunately, the evidence strongly contradicts that. We need to change attitudes and the minds of the able bodied who are so quick to rush to judgment.

There is this ‘God help him/her’ attitude as if you should be pitied, when all you want is to be treated with dignity and respect. Take the consultant I went to see once. As soon as he got off the phone (he was buying a boat!) he came over to me, starting pawing my chin saying how he could do wonders for it, all the while chatting to my wife. She had to tell him that I was the patient and he should talk to me. Besides, the chin wasn’t what I had come to discuss! Incredible behaviour.

Never make assumptions about people who are facially disfigured or disabled. We may have issues dealing with our injuries, but we are not intellectually disabled. Many of us are highly educated and skilled. We don’t want to be patronised but accepted by society without fear of being abused, stared at or treated in a condescending manner. We deserve nothing less.

Just because we look different doesn’t mean we can’t do a job as well or better than everyone else. That’s a message all employers should note. Don’t judge people by how they look but how they perform. Check the CV and judge the person not the body. I have heard some incredible stories about how appallingly facially disfigured people were treated at job interviews, objectified and then disqualified before they could say a word. HR departments and employers should encourage an ethos that doesn’t discriminate against the facially disfigured or disabled. Equality in the workplace should apply to everyone without exception.

And while we’re on the subject, we need to get over the exclusion that applies to particular jobs, such as work that means you interface with the public – TV presenting, reporting, banking, etc. Judy Hemsley was denied a job because ‘she didn’t have a receptionist-type face’. When Michelle Willis was interviewed to become a nurse she was asked how she would deal with questions about her face, and felt she was being mentally assessed “as if I was not intelligent enough to be a staff nurse”.

Food for thought there for employers. Let’s end the discrimination.

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