How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: Disability Edition

Photo Credit to Nikki Barker Instagram: http://bit.ly/2FwsbAS

This is a topic I’ve seen a lot of disability vloggers cover, so I thought I’d give my spin on it. This is 5 of the more irritating/misguided/eye roll inducing things people say and do, because I’m in a wheelchair, as well as 1 massive misconception about disability. Now, this is not a call out blog, I’m not going to be naming and shaming anyone. This is more of a public service announcement that if you say/do any of these things you’ll likely incur a very confused look and an eye roll from me and you’ll be the incident I laugh about with my friends over coffee

Say

  1. “I’m so sorry”

THIS. THIS IS THE ACTUAL WORST. This usually happens when I call a venue and have to mention that I’m in a wheelchair in order to check accessibility. I’m so not mentioning my disability for a pity party. Don’t be sorry I’m disabled because I’m not. My disability has given me so many opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had (this blog for example) and I wouldn’t be half the person I am without it, so hearing that you’re sorry is really quite insulting.

  1. “You’re so great for being friends with her”

WHAT?  This one’s usually said to my friends (by drunks) when we’re out at the pub or bar (and I know, drunks are drunks, but drunk people say what they’re thinking without a filter, so drunks can actually be a better guide of what they’re actually thinking) and every single time the friend in question has pulled a face that I’ll refer to as the WHAT?! Face (you all know the one) because, and here’s a revolutionary fact, my friends aren’t friends with me because of my disability (and if they are, likelihood is I don’t consider them a friend). They’re friends with me because they see the girl beyond the chair, and I’d implore anyone guilty of saying #2 to do the same.

  1. “OH MY GOD you’re sitting”

Yes, this has actually been said to me by another human, who shall remain nameless. This was after I’d transferred out of my chair into an actual seat to sit with friends. And the entire table just kind of pulled the WHAT?! Face while I rolled my eyes so hard I literally saw the inside of my head.  I just… I was also sitting in my wheelchair before I transferred or does that not count as sitting?! I’m genuinely perplexed by this years after it was said, and sincerely hoping no one ever says this again because honestly, I just, I just can’t explain this one at all.

  1. “I’ll heal you”

This one is usually said by random people in the street with some kind of religious healing connotation going on. I get it, if you want to believe that my disability can be healed/fixed or needs healing/fixing then you can have your beliefs, but just don’t say them TO me because a) I don’t need fixing because I’m not broken and b) I really don’t want healing, disability is the only life I’ve ever known and I’ve no idea how to live any other way, and I’m really  not sure I’d want to live any other way. Likelihood is if you say this I’ll completely ignore you.

  1. I want one! (in reference to the wheelchair)

This has to be the one that gets on my nerves the most. It tends to come from teenagers who see the wheelchair and decide that it must be “so easy” being in a wheelchair, and no, it’s really not. I’d kind of understand this one if it came from younger kids, but you’d think by the time kids are teenagers they’d understand the meaning behind their words. This wheelchair is not a fashion statement, want to take my condition too? No? then you don’t REALLY want the wheelchair. Swap your fully functional legs for my wheelchair and then maybe we’ve got a deal.

 

Things people do that really grind my gears:

  1. Sing “Rollin”/something similar

This one has happened soooooooooooo many times I can’t even count, in case anyone’s wondering which song I’m talking about, it’s Rollin by Limp Bizkit (if you still don’t know what I’m talking about, search it, I refuse to have that song on my YouTube history). You see me go past in my chair, how very observant of you to notice a large motorised vehicle, there’s no need to announce that you’ve seen me (unless it’s “Hey Em”) by singing this ridiculous song like it’s going to be a revelation to me or anyone else that I’m in a wheelchair and if you do HAVE to draw attention to the fact you’ve noticed my wheels, be creative about it, I’ve heard this one sooooooooooo many time and it’s getting a little boring after so many years!

  1. Act offended on my behalf

This happens when my friends make some kind of reference to the wheelchair or my condition (links between the chair and Transformers springs to mind back when Transformers was a big deal). I get that this sort of stuff isn’t funny for everyone but it tends to amuse me so I laugh, and then some random human I’ve never met goes “YOU CAN’T SAY THAT!!!!!!!!!!!” actually, I , the disabled person at which this joke was directed, laughed, which means I found the joke funny, and this joke has probably happened a few times. So yes, they can make that joke to me (note: TO ME). And if something’s not funny my friends know I’m more than willing to call them out for it.

  1. Physically try to move the wheelchair

This has only happened once that I remember thankfully, but it was a situation and a half. The drunk girl in question (yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay drunk people) physically tried to move my ELECTRIC WHEELCHAIR WITH ME IN IT, never ever ever ever going to work, love, for 3 reasons: a) that’s like a literal tonne of electric wheelchair with 2 batteries AND a whole person in it, and you are one small woman, lifting it isn’t ever going to be an option. b) If you do try and move me and get annoyed when I don’t move, I’ll just keep positioning myself more in the way because your annoyance is amusing me, and I like to annoy people when they’re being stupid like this. And c) if you do decide to stand in front of me and purposely block my view, I’ll just rise my seat above your head! (because yes, this snazzy bit of kit I sit on goes up and down as well as backwards and forwards). If I’m sat somewhere it’s likely because it’s the only or the best place for me to see. And if I am in the way just ASK me to move, I’ll probably oblige if you’re nice about it.

  1. Help when I say I’m ok

Now I get it, it’s human nature to want to be helpful, so if you think I’m struggling and want to help then go ahead and ask, if I want your help I’ll accept, and you can go ahead and help me out. But if you ask and my response is “no thanks, I got it”, don’t proceed to then help me, if I say I got it, I got it. I’ve done whatever it is I’m doing a dozen times with no help. It may look a weird way to do something, but I can still do it. Let me have my independence like everyone else. If I can live in London by myself for 2 and a bit years I can take food out of a supermarket freezer by myself.

  1. Pat me on the head

This. This is the reason I’m pretty constantly wearing a hat or hood. I don’t know if it’s the combo of being in a wheelchair and being short (the joys of being 4ft 9) but this happens way too often for my liking. I am not a child or a dog, stop petting me. Like literally take your hands off my head or I will. I’m not sure how many more ways I can tell you: DO. NOT. DO. THIS

And now here comes the controversy

“YOU’RE AN INSPIRATION”

I get it, part of the reason behind this blog is for me to inspire people, parents of kids who just got a diagnosis and don’t know how they’re going deal with that. But also, I’m not inspirational or I shouldn’t be considered inspirational for just going to work, or uni, or out and about like everyone else. I shouldn’t be considered to be “doing enough by just being alive” (yes, an actual sentence that was actually said to me). I fought to have a life, so I’m determined to LIVE it, society needs to stop saying “you can’t” do things with a disability and start saying you “you can, and let’s figure out how”.

I hope this post helps you realise that you might say or do something that irritates those with a disability so that you think a little more before you speak or act.

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7 Comments

  1. As a practicing Christian, I can’t help but give a special warning to other believers on the “I’ll heal you” one. I’ve known Christian friends and family with disabilities to be told that “I’ll heal you” and when they aren’t healed it’s thought that the person with the disability is possessed by the devil or something like that. “I’ll heal you” is downright toxic if we’re not careful. Sure, I believe that God does miracles, but sometimes God calls people to something else other than being healed from the disability. I also believe in a God who uses people regardless of their limitations (physical, emotional, financial, or otherwise).

    Like

  2. Pingback: What accessibility means | Invincible Woman on Wheels

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