How not to ‘react’ to seeing a disabled person.
I’ve got lots of posts in my drafts at the moment but haven’t really managed to upload, I’m going to apologise for the sarcasm of this post in advance, I couldn’t help myself.
Since becoming an ambulatory (part time) wheelchair user, I have noticed the weird ways I am treated when out in my chair as opposed to when I am not. As one day I may be able to go out and walk without my chair & another day I need it, I like to people watch- assess the public on how they look at me, as someone with an invisible disability and then someone in a wheelchair which makes it more visible. I see reactions from two sides.
So below see a non- conclusive list of reactions I have received since becoming a wheelchair user & things you should probably avoid.
So to start with, the stares. I don’t like people looking at me at all but it was something I had to get used to quick when my Tourettes came along!
People stare mid conversation, it’s very weird, they literally turn their heads whilst they continue to talk.
If you’re a starer I’d honestly love to know what it is that makes you stare. Is it because I’m a young person in a wheelchair? Is it because there’s something on my face? Because I look fabulous or because you’re rude or nosey? Oh perhaps it’s because you’re waiting to do your good deed of the day and pick up the poor disabled girl who might fall out her wheelchair so you can go home and put on Facebook that you’re a hero? Honestly. I’d love to know.
People dramatically jumping out the way 20m away from me or as opposed to those who do the complete opposite and ignore and walk into me- as if you can’t see the wheelchair right in front of you.
The jumpers are hilarious- the pure panic on their faces as they grab or push their walking companion to the side & watch them topple over, whilst they have huge grins on their faces staring me directly in the eye.
I like these people because they’re trying but please don’t be weird.
Don’t make eye- contact with me on purpose tims uncomfortable for us both but also actively trying to avoid eye- contact is weird too.
Some people try so so hard to make eye contact with you so you know they don’t feel awkward that you’re there that they practically fall over their feet and face plant into lampposts. The people that are determined to stare until we make eye contact so they can smile at me are funny. One of my favourites if I’m honest. You look like Plonkers.
Whilst on the other hands those who stare at the sky or pretend to be looking at something up high so they don’t make eye- contact with me is weird. Careful if you see me you might ‘catch’ it.
There are the ones who talk to me like a baby or point blank refuse to talk to me and talk to my carer or friend who may be with me. These people annoy me a lot! Don’t be one of these people.
I love to respond to these people with a particularly eloquent response to remind them I am able to advocate for myself and I do not need ableist assumptions that I ‘need’ my carer to speak for me. If I’m having a bad day health wise, I’ll probably get whoever is with me to respond if I’m struggling to communicate BUT the mere assumption that because I am disabled, I need to be spoken over and not to really does grind my gears.
A little tip for when meeting disabled people – speak to them. We’re human beings whether we are able to communicate due to our disabilities or not. OH DOCTORS ARE OFTEN THE WORST AT THIS BTW!
Jokes about my chair!
I don’t mind these too much but I mean, atleast be a bit more original. So you know these seem to be the standard jokes I get:
‘Do you have a license for that thing?’
‘Can I have a lift?’
‘Whose chair have you nicked?’
‘Can we have a race’
‘Is this some kind of joke?’
To be honest I often just get people looking and laughing as if somethings so funny.
Trying to talk to me!
Believe it or not I’ve had people stop me to ask me the weirdest questions when I’m in my chair. Mr middle aged Aldi man asked me which mushrooms I would buy. Mrs Sainsburys woman asked me if I like strawberries?!
Mr & Mrs Aldi 2 asked if they could borrow ‘it’ (my own chair) when I’m done?!
People seem to love to stop me to ask what happened & why I use a chair too.
Don’t be like the idiot who mimicked me in my wheelchair doing a highly offensive gesture whilst saying ‘ahh disabled’ when I came out the cocktail bar with my friends.
I’ve actually had men pull their cars over or slow down & roll down their windows in an attempt to talk to me. I’ve had ‘you alright darlin’ out the window as I’m wheeling along a flat surface with my female carer chatting away in no distress. As a young woman- this is scary what are you doing don’t do this.
so what should I do then Lauren?!
Surely I just shouldn’t speak to disabled people if I can’t do any of the above?!
Well how would you react if you saw a stranger walk past you in the street?
You probably wouldn’t look.
You probably wouldn’t talk to them or crack a joke about their walking style.
You might smile if you walked past them.Or move out their way if there wasn’t enough room for both of you on the pavement. ‘Just act normal’. Unless a disabled person is quite obviously struggling and doesn’t clearly have support, there is no need for you to stop them, get in their way or try and talk to them- remember disabled people have places to be & could be in a rush just like you, they may just be out enjoying their day!
Have a fabulous day, I hope you like this style of post.