Just Wrong!

Today I went to get my hair done. When I got there I noticed a wheelchair by the door. A woman who had cerebral palsy was in one of the stylists chairs. She was obviously quite cognitively aware. Her limitations seemed physical in nature. Her hair looked amazing. It had been cut, highlighted and blown dried to a glossy shine. Just when the stylist said she was done, the woman asked her to put the sparkly feathers (that are popular now) in her hair, which she did. The woman was obviously pleased and asked her father, who had driven her there, to take a picture using her cell phone. She looked amazing.

After she left the stylist was visibly upset as she prepared to leave for the day. After she had gone, I asked my stylist, the owner of the salon, what had upset her. He explained that the stylist had spent four hours with the client. She had carried her to the washing bowl, back to the chair and taken care of her needs for those four hours. She had treated her with professionalism and respect. She worked very hard to make her hair look great not just because she is a professional, but also because the woman was a long time client she was fond of.

When it came time for her client to pay for the services, the client told her she was giving her $40. Even after the stylist gently let her know the price for the services she had received, she had simply told her she was giving her $40 and that was all.

I asked my stylist why the woman’s father, who was there to pick her up, did not intervene he explained it was because her father did not involve himself in her finances, further making me believe the woman to be fully intellectually capable.

I work with people with intellectual disabilities on a daily basis and am a ferocious advocate for them. In the nearly 20 years I have spent working with people with disabilities, I don’t think I have ever experienced anything like this before. I truly believe that this woman was pimping her disability.

I find it just as appalling that someone who is disabled would take advantage of someone who is not disabled as I would if a non-disabled person took advantage of a disabled person. The $40 didn’t even pay for the stylists rent on the station and the products used. I firmly believe the woman knew exactly what she was doing and took advantage of the stylist because she knew the stylist would not push her because of her “handicap”.

It has been my experience that most people who are disabled struggle their entire life not to be treated differently or to get favors just because of their disability. They want to be accepted and treated with dignity just the same as everyone else. It is utterly undignified, in my opinion, to use your disability to get something for yourself at the expense of someone else.

I believe that this woman’s behavior is very unfortunate and is a slap in the face to people who are differently able who want to be treated as equals by the “normal” people of the world. You simply can’t have it both ways and I think that most people understand this.

I would like to think that this was just a momentary lack in judgement on the part of the woman in question and that she will pay the stylist what she is owed and deserves at her next visit. I also hope that the stylist does not let this happen to her again, either by someone who is disabled or someone who is not.

IF I were the stylist I would give this client one more chance. I would discuss with her, before I started providing services, what it is that she wants/expects and how much it will cost. I would verify what she wants and that she understands the cost for the service and that she is comfortable paying that price. If she is not, I would suggest a more simple service or that she find another salon.

I find it very unfair that this woman put the stylist in the position that she did. That the woman felt somehow entitled or righteous in using her disability to “get away” with not paying for the services received is also troubling to me. I hope that she realizes that especially now, the money that she did not pay the stylist may impact the stylist in a negative way, both monetarily and also mentally. They stylist clearly felt confused, betrayed and sad.

During this holiday season, please remember to be kind and generous to those around you. Treat each person you meet with respect and dignity. Don’t take advantage of others and realize that your actions may impact others in a more significant way than you understand. This holds true whether you are disabled or not.


  1. Terry,
    Very well stated. And I agree completely. I feel bad for that stylist as it is not cheep to rent your station and the cost of her products.
    I dont think it is right of that customer to take advantage, if she is aware of what she did, of the stylist and of her disability.
    I know some people who are disabled in different ways. Some have a diminished capacity and I know they are corrected when they are wrong.
    Thank you for posting this so everyone can try to keep it in mind not only during the holidays but everyday.

    • Yes. It was very upsetting to see. I think the other thing that was distressing is that the stylist also seemed to feel guilty for being upset. Very unfair of the woman and I have no doubt she knew what she was doing. I have known many people over the years with CP and they are fully intellectually capable, highly educated people. I wonder what would happen if she decided to only pay for a third of her electric bill? So sad for the stylist.