Abled people are always telling disabled people things they probably should have kept to themselves because it either comes off as abelist or kind of cheesy and everyone says it. I don’t think abled people are always trying to be rude but sometimes just don’t know how to talk to a disabled person. I try not to take everything personally and give people the benefit of the doubt because you can’t assume everyone doesn’t care but sometimes I don’t get it and you had to know that comment was not okay. As a disabled person, you can’t allow yourself to let everything get under your skin because abled people say more rude things to the disability community than they would say to someone without one and if you let everything make you angry you would become a very sad, depressed person. In this post, I am going to talk about some common things people say to disabled people that is not okay and you need to stop saying it!
What’s wrong with you?- First of all, there is nothing wrong with me because I have a disability and you should never approach a disabled person in such an insulting way. If you are curious about someone’s disability and want to know more you will never get information by directly asking someone what’s wrong with you or what happened to them because disabled people consider that as rude. If you are curious about someone’s disability feel free to politely ask them if they wouldn’t mind talking about their disability but also be prepared for someone not feeling comfortable sharing it and telling you it’s none of your business. Disabled people are not entitled to explaining to abled people why they are disabled because you can ask but we are not required to tell you anything if we don’t want to.
My brother’s sister has Spina Bifida do you know them?- Whenever I meet an abled person for the first time often one of the first things people say to me is I know someone with your disability and do you know them? I can never understand why people assume that because I am disabled that I know every single person on this earth with my disability. If I knew every single person with Spina Bifida known to humanity I would not be short in the friend department because I would have thousands of friends. I know some people with Spina Bifida but that number is very small and I could probably count them all on one hand so to answer your question on if I know your friend who happens to have my disability I probably don’t but would like to meet.
If I was disabled I don’t think I could carry on living- Whenever I hear people say that if I was disabled I don’t think I could carry on living I am always so shocked and want to say what is wrong with you? It’s no wonder that so many disabled people struggle with anxiety or depression because it’s comments like these that make disabled people feel like their life isn’t worthy and I don’t understand what makes people say them. If you were disabled you may struggle with more physically but if you had a disability you would learn how to cope. When you say if I was in your situation I don’t think I could carry on living you are basically saying it’s not worth it to live with a disability and that disabled people don’t deserve to live. Disabled people may struggle with more things than abled people but you can live well and excel while being disabled. Please stop telling disabled people that it’s not worth it to live with a disability because you never know who struggling with depression and would be set off by that comment. A disability makes people different but it’s not the worst thing that could happen to you and it is kind of hard to see the beauty in your disability if abled people are always saying you are better off dead.
You are not disabled but differently abled- Some people may choose to identify as differently-abled but not everyone will choose to use that term and some people may gag when they hear it. When you tell a disabled person that they are not disabled but differently abled you are telling someone how they should identify to make you more comfortable. If a disabled person wants to be identified as differently-abled that is fine but you shouldn’t be telling someone what terms they should be using because you prefer it. It’s not up to abled people how we choose to identify but it’s up to the actual disabled person because we can identify in any way that we would like and if you are abled you should respect that. If someone identified me as differently-abled I would correct them and say no I am not because I don’t identify in that way.
I don’t see you as disabled- When someone tells me that they don’t see me as disabled my first thought is that you are in denial of my disability and view it as something bad. I don’t care if you see me as an angel from heaven because it still doesn’t change the fact that I have a disability with many challenges and is damaging towards disabled people when you refuse to use that term. The word disabled is not a curse word and it’s okay to use it because you are only stating a fact that can be quite harmful when you dance around it if that is what someone prefers. Identifying someone as disabled doesn’t make them any more or less of a person and is not negative a negative term but is only stating the obvious that can be very damaging towards someone’s mental health if you refuse to use that term.
You are so pretty– Do you honestly think I am pretty or did you just say that because I am disabled and think I need a compliment? If you truly think a disabled person is pretty it’s okay to compliment them but there are times when I just got out of bed and am looking pretty rough and there is no way you think I’m that pretty. The problem isn’t that disabled people aren’t pretty because you are but abled people tell us we are pretty for just being disabled and don’t mean it half the time. If you think a disabled person is pretty you should tell them that but if you don’t save it for another time because when I don’t present myself well I know your lying.
I’m curious how do you go to the bathroom?– I am always so surprised when people casually walk up to me and start asking how I pee like I am going to tell you that information. How I pee is none of your business and you should never ask disabled people that because that is crossing major boundaries that you should never cross. Some disabled people may have more difficulty going to the bathroom and may need to take laxatives to help them have bowel movements but a lot of people won’t need that and can go to the bathroom the same way as everyone else. I don’t care how curious you are about someone’s bathroom habits it’s not any of your business and you should never ask someone that. Most importantly why are you so interested in how I go to the bathroom, because to me it just sounds like you are being nosy. I don’t even talk about my bathroom habits with my disabled friends because it’s personal and is not something my friends need to have details on. If a disabled person feels comfortable talking about their bowel regimen they will bring it up in a conversation but if not you have to be okay with being left in the dark about it because unless you are someone’s doctor or caregiver you don’t need to know.
Let’s race– Disabled people think it’s cheesy when you say things like lets race, do you have a license for that thing, or if you don’t slow down I’ll give you a speeding ticket and when people say it we are rolling our eyes thinking” haven’t heard that one before. I always find it funny when abled people think it’s this hilarious original joke because it’s not and everyone has said it to disabled people at least twice.
What’s your sex life like?– I always find it odd when people walk up to me and start asking for details about my sex life. Why do you care so much about my sex life and wouldn’t you find it kind of strange if disabled people started asking you how good you are in the bedroom? Disabled people can have a sex life and some people may choose not to but you should never directly ask someone about it because that is crossing boundaries and my opinion a very inappropriate question to ask. Disabled people can have healthy babies and many of us do but how it’s done is none of your business so don’t ask such questions. Some disabled people may have to make modifications in their sex life to accomodate their disability but a lot of people don’t have to and it’s the same as it would be for abled people.
There are a lot of things that abled people may not understand about someone’s disability and that is okay but even though you are curious that still doesn’t make you entitled to every detail about someone’s disability. I know some things that abled people say to us are not said with the intent of being rude but sometimes it can come off that way. Disabled people often spend years in therapy learning how to socialize with abled people but I think the real problem isn’t that disabled people can’t interact with abled people but abled people think they are superior to disabled people and can’t interact with us. I don’t expect abled people to know every single thing that bothers disabled people but you should you learn the difference between being curious and crossing boundaries. There are so many things people say to disabled people that I couldn’t possibly write them all in one post because it would be very long so keep a lookout for part two. If you are ever unsure if a comment is okay to ask disabled people you can always ask disabled people directly because we will tell you anything that helps us experience less ableism and appreciate it when people take the initiative to be better. What comments have people said to you as a disabled person that really gets under your skin and needs to vanish from existence?
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Different sayings from what I hear! But how rude – or maybe just unthinking – can some people be? Thanks for bringing it to people’s attention that they need to think before they talk. Maybe they just need to learn that we are like other people and conversation should be like they would with anyone. We just may look or move differently than they do.
My Rockin Disabled Life
Yeah I think a majority of the time people say things before they think about it. I agree I think the biggest problem is abled people are too focused on our disability that they don’t realize we are different people and conversation can be had in the same way as anyone else.
What’s “wrong” with you really does echo the crux of judgement around illness and disability, doesn’t it? Like disability is a dirty word, that a person isn’t ‘normal’ or good enough because they’ve got a health condition. What a load of nonsense. Dangerous and insulting nonsense.
Oh by the way, I had a client in my last job, before my health fully went down the toilet, who had Spina Bifida. Peter. Do you know him? 😆
I’ve seen comments online, and I’ve even been right there in front of someone as they’ve said it – “ugh, a stoma bag, how horrible, I could never have one of those.” Delightful. But to have someone say they didn’t think they could carry on living, yikes. The best way that can be viewed is someone meaning well but coming about it all wrong, like trying to suggest you’re somehow “braver” than they are for living as you do with what you have to deal with, because they couldn’t do it. That’s still bad enough. From others, this type of comment is pure horror, borne from so much judgement and stigma that it’s unreal. Honestly, I don’t think I could carry on living if I were so bloody ignorant to say things like this. I’m just so sorry for all those who’ve had to hear it.
That’s a really good point about not trying to label or categorise someone as being differently abled, even if you mean well in trying to show someone you believe disability isn’t a “bad” word. Then again, to have someone say they don’t see you as disabled… I don’t know. Like you said, it’s like “disabled” is a curse word. It all tracks back to the deeply ingrained social stigma and ignorance and lack of understanding.
As for someone asking “how do you go to the bathroom? Rude, much?! I don’t know what I’d do in that situation, I’m not fast enough these days to come up with a fast enough retort. “How do you go to the bathroom, with your head so far up your arse?”
This is a fab post, Sarah. It’s good for those in similar situations facing stupid comments and questions. And also good for those who aren’t disabled, to give insights and provoke thought on things they may not have considered before, which may just make the difference in being supportive towards someone with a disability, and merely causing grief and gut-ache.
My Rockin Disabled Life
Thank you, I have had my share of stupid ignorant comments that can be very damaging towards someone’s mental health so I try not to take them personally and remind myself that people who say things like this clearly do not understand. I think sometimes people say things without thinking and legitimately believe living with a disability is horrible because people don’t realize our disabilities just make us different and that is not necessarily a bad thing.