What About Food?

When looking at the effects of disability, often in the context of Web Accessibilty, I have a tendency to focus on some of the less obvious issues and have been known to write the odd article and presentation about these issues. In this, my second post for BADD, I will continue in this vein and talk about something very close to my heart: food.

What I am going to talk about is a rather mild disablism, but it is worthy of a mention if for no other reason than to draw attention to a couple of issues that many people may not have considered; these are diabetes and coeliac (celiac for our friends in the USA) disease.

Diabetes

I don’t know how many people would agree that diabetes constitutes a disability, but from personal experience, I have found that it means that I cannot do some things that “normal” people can. At one stage, this meant that I could not go for more than 2 hours without eating. Working from home, this was not a problem, but attending a conference was.

The disablism: workplaces, conferences and anywhere where people are gathered artificially should recognise that lengthy sessions may cause problems to some people. They should also recognise that a catered tea-break should not just consist of sticky cakes and other starch and sugar related rubbish.

My doctor lent me a DVD of a conference that she attended and I had to chuckle when the speaker glanced at his watch and commented that hypoglycaemia would now be setting in and therefore it was time for a break. Maybe non-doctors will be saying the same thing if the message ever gets across.

Coeliac Disease/Gluten Intolerance

Whilst diabetes is relatively well-recognised and is generally (but not always) manageable, Coeliac disease and the horrendous effects of gluten (not exaggerating, ask someone with the disease) are not. Only this year did the British Parliament debate the coeliac issue. I don’t know how many working days are lost per year as a result of this, but it can be a truly disabling condition.

If restaurants are required to provide equal access, should this not extend to the food? I would not be at all surprised to find that a non-coeliac client in a wheelchair would get an easier ride in many restaurants than a walking coeliac with an “invisible” issue.

The disabilism: lack of adequate food labelling (gluten sneaks in to the most unlikely of foods), lack of choices in food outlets, inadequate training of staff causing cross-contamination. This isn’t like slipping a bit of chicken stock to a vegetarian in an otherwise innocent risotto – we are not talking food choices here, we are talking about people being made ill, unable to work and with reduced life expectancy (dramatically increased risk of bowel cancer).

Conclusion

I am not coeliac (my wife is, hence my Life Without Gluten section in this blog) and I am managing my diabetes. Eating out is a major frustration – especially taking my fatigue into account which eliminates any evening excursions – so happens very rarely. Lucky that I like cooking.

There are people out there with far worse cases of diabetes and far worse cases of coeliac disease. These people may think that they are being inconvenienced when working/eating out, but they are really suffering from discrimination. This, I think, is where you – the reader – should have a think about the Social model of Disability and then think about what I have written. Which is getting incoherent due to fatigue, but there you have it. Happy BADD, folks and don’t forget to check out all the other BADD posts.

Comments – for and against – this article are very welcome.