Philadelphia — It was Tuesday when Eileen Ileto went to work without her walker for the first time. As Ileto walked unassisted into her office, the other employees were stunned into silence. They stared, not breathing, watching her every step in disbelief.
After Ileto closed her door, everyone immediately scurried to the breakroom and talked over each other. One coworker, Trish Hardwick, said, “Did you see her?” Hardwick’s desk buddy, Chad Gannon, replied, “No walker. No wheelchair. She was acting like it never happened.” Supervisor Jaclyn Kahn peppered the group with questions, grasping for answers: “Was she at least limping? Did she go gluten-free? Is she allowed to do that — walk normal?!?”
The team felt betrayed and bewildered. Their worlds had been turned upside down. This was so unexpected, so unfair, so cruel. They could not understand why this was happening to them.
Kahn couldn’t take it. She declared, “She’s a witch!” Gannon yelled, “Let’s burn her!” Hardwick interjected, “Whoa. We don’t want to do anything illegal. I think Chad meant let’s fire her.” Kahn agreed, “Yeah. She’s making me very uncomfortable.”
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. In the US, hundreds of millions have contracted Abled Impermanence Cognitive Impairment (AICI). AICI symptoms include acute confusion in response to dynamic disabilities, feelings of pseudo-authority over others and extreme fear of naturally occurring human variance. Demonstrating life’s unquenchable thirst for irony, AICI leads to higher rates of unemployment for uninfected disabled people.
Ileto suddenly appeared in the breakroom, again with no walker. Startled, Gannon spoke loudly to dissipate any lingering death threats. “GOOD MORNING VICE PRESIDENT ILETO!” Ileto cringed and replied to her staff, “Good morning, Chad, everyone. I brought in treats for Halloween: cauldron cake pops.”