By Melissa Lyon
Can you solve this riddle?
“A father and son are in a horrific car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital. Just as he is about to go under the knife the surgeon stops and exclaims, “I can’t operate! That boy is my son!!”. Explain how this can be true.
I got the answer to this riddle wrong. My dad got it wrong. My grandparents got it wrong. Pretty much everyone I asked did not get the answer to this riddle, which by the way, is that his mother was the surgeon operating on him!!
I love this riddle because it is a great example of unconscious bias. There is a great TEDTalk by Verna Myers about overcoming biases and she says that unconscious bias is “the stories we make up about people before we know who they actually are”. Although the riddle is about gender bias and the video is mainly geared towards racial bias, people with disabilities also face unconscious biases every day.
An example of unconscious bias from my life occurs almost every time I go to a restaurant. Often, the waitress or waiter takes one look at me and automatically assumes that I am under 12 so they give me the kid’s menu – even though I am 26 years old! Imagine this same scenario if I were applying for a job…people often assume that I am young, inexperienced, and incompetent just based on the fact that I am very small, I walk with a limp, and my speech isn’t the clearest.
I think that it is important that we educate others about how to minimize unconscious bias. Some suggestions to lessen unconscious bias include:
Focus on seeing people as individuals and don’t make assumptions – challenge your first impressions!
Appreciate and comment on people’s strengths and support others as they try to build on areas that need improvement.
Increase exposure to a diverse range of people – step outside of your comfort zone – you may be surprised!
Continue to educate yourself about unconscious bias and inclusion.
Withhold making a judgment until you have all the information and have reflected on your personal assumptions and stereotypes.
If you want to learn more about unconscious bias, here are a couple of resources:
The Implicit Bias Test – this is a free test that was created by Harvard to help individuals identify their own biases
Managing Unconscious Bias – this website includes videos, tips, and case studies that can be used to learn more about different types of unconscious bias
People’s assumptions about what we can and cannot do often hold us back from achieving our goals. Let’s work together to educate others about unconscious bias and help change people’s perceptions of what having a disability means.
About the Author:
Melissa Lyon is a disability consultant for the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC. She has a master’s degree in Special Education and has worked hard to get to where she is now. As a person with mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy, Melissa is a strong advocate for people with disabilities. When not working, Melissa enjoys doing karate, where she is working on getting her black belt.