by Christiane Tourtet B.A.
MCS America News, Volume 3, Issue 1, January 2008.
It is hard enough for many persons with disabilities to get the
accommodations they are legally entitled to under the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), and even harder in many instances to get respect. As
for persons suffering from painful chronic illnesses/disabilities, which
cannot be seen (invisible disabilities), it can be quite a challenge.
There are many illnesses / disabilities which fall under the category of
invisible disabilities. Chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical
sensitivity (MCS), Lyme disease, progressive multiple sclerosis,
fibromyalgia, arthritis, lupus, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, heart diseases,
asthma, chronic infections, and brain injury, are just a few of the many
diseases and disabilities that are not apparent to onlookers.
It is rather amazing that people in general have the wrong notion that
persons with disabilities have to be either on crutches or in wheelchairs,
or using some sort of assisting devices. Even though, this may be the case
for many persons with disabilities, it certainly is not true for persons
suffering from illnesses and disabilities which cannot readily be seen.
The fact that a person looks good and healthy does not mean in any way that
this person cannot possibly have an illness or disability. On the contrary,
persons with invisible illnesses and disabilities are legally disabled and
entitled to the same rights as persons with visible disabilities under the
law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other laws and
An excellent source of information on chronic illnesses and invisible
disabilities can be found at "The Invisible Disabilities Advocate":
It is wrong to stereotype persons with disabilities. Many persons with
disabilities can be counted among some of the greatest achievers of this
nation. From what I have heard and observed over the years, I am quite
appalled by the lack of respect, and even cruelty, of many people in general
toward persons with visible and invisible disabilities.
Many people with disabilities, especially persons with invisible
disabilities, are routinely subjected to insensitive inquiries about their
disabilities, including discrimination, derogatory comments, harassment, and
mistreatment by many employees in places of business, and by people in
I have compiled a list of do's and don'ts that can be quite helpful for
dealing with persons with disabilities in general:
When a person with a visible or non-visible disability takes the trouble to
bring to you information about his/her disability, possibly with sections of
applicable law and is making a legal request for Accommodations under the
Law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
1- Do not, become defensive and refuse to accept the information that this
person is providing to you. Persons with disabilities are usually very well
informed about their disabilities and their legal rights under the Law ADA.
2- Do not be rude, verbally or otherwise, such as throwing on the counter
the information provided to you by a person with a disability.
3-Do not make insensitive requests or comments about a person with a
disability, such as, "What's wrong with you?" You surely look fine to me!"
Well, you surely could make it to my store!"
4-Do not refuse to accommodate or threaten a person with a disability asking
for accommodations under ADA as it is unlawful to do so and legal
consequences may follow.
5- Do not give the brush off to a person explaining to you his/her
disability and requesting accommodations under the Law ADA.
6-Do not discriminate by first serving non-disabled customers and then the
person with a disability.
7-Do not become impatient, irate, and ask a person with a disability to
leave your premises, thus refusing to provide services while this person is
trying to obtain the reasonable accommodations/modifications he/she needs
under the law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as legal action can
8-Do not purposely interrupt a person with a disability who is trying to
explain to you the accommodations and modifications, he /she needs under the
9-Do not make sarcastic remarks, jokes, about a person with a disability.
10- Do not purposely spray chemicals in the presence of a person disabled by
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), as it could result in very serious
reactions for the person with this illness/disability and potentially very
serious legal consequences.
Information about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) can be read at, MCS
1-Greet all persons with visible / invisible disabilities with a friendly
smile and attitude.
2-Listen attentively to what a person with a disability is trying to convey
3-Be courteous, and take gracefully the information provided to you by a
person with a disability.
4-Thank the person with a disability for bringing information about his/her
disability, and information about the ADA.
5-Serve persons with disabilities as efficiently and promptly as possible,
especially persons suffering from painful chronic illnesses or disabilities
such as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Do not use or spray any
chemicals in the presence of persons disabled by MCS, as it could result in
very severe reactions that could be life-threatening.
6-Be kind and compassionate toward persons with disabilities.
7-Be patient and understanding of the limitations of persons with
8-Educate yourself about the ADA and disabilities in general and diligently
train your employees, especially in regard to invisible disabilities.
9-Go out of your way to help persons with disabilities.
10-Make persons with disabilities feel at ease and welcomed, such as saying,
"nice to see you, thank your very much for your business, please come back
to see us".
This way, professional relations with your customers with disabilities will
be very good, which will benefit both your business and persons with
Information about the law "The Americans with Disabilities Act" (ADA) can be
found at the U.S. Department of Justice, Americans with Disabilities Act,
It is recommended to the general public to refrain from sending dirty looks
or making unfounded, hurtful, and derogatory comments to persons who happen
to look good and healthy and yet may suffer tremendously from invisible
chronic illnesses or disabilities.
The next time you get impatient and angry, give dirty looks, discriminate,
harass, or make hurtful, sarcastic remarks, think twice. The young, healthy
looking, pretty woman who seems to take so much time at a store check-out,
the healthy looking lady who insists on having each of her water bottles put
in double paper bags, and the young, well dressed, healthy looking man
pulling into the handicapped parking space may be people who have painful
chronic illnesses and are legally disabled under the Americans with
Disabilities Act, (ADA). They most likely have the legal right to park in
that disabled parking space!
© 2007 Christiane Tourtet
Reprinted with Permission
Copyrighted © 2008 MCS America