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There is something in life that makes us all cringe when people do them and for some people, it maybe nails on a chalkboard while others may not be bothered by such things. As a disabled person get bothered by some of the same things that abled people do but for the most part, a lot of the things that irritate my abled sisters do not bother me at all. People being rude does not bother me as much as does for abled people because when you are disabled you are kind of used to people being ableist or just rude in general but that doesn’t make it okay. I sometimes think abled people do not know how to talk to a disabled person and are ableist because they do not ever interact with disabled people and wouldn’t be able to recognize ableist behaviors if there were flashing blinking red lights. In this post, I am going to talk about some things that abled people often do that really gets under my skin that you should stop doing.
Patting me on the head like I am your dog- I can never understand why some abled-bodied people go up to disabled people and tell them they are so cute and start patting us on the head like we are your dog. Disabled people are people too and it’s about time we start getting treated like we are actual humans instead of being talked to like we are some kind of charity case. Talk to a disabled person like you would to any able-bodied person because a lot of us are very much capable of having a conversation like abled people can and don’t need you to talk to us like children. If you wouldn’t pat an abled person on the head like a dog, do not do it to disabled people! My disability makes me struggle physically but you can have a conversation with me like you would with any adult and I will understand you.
Letting your child walk away with my assistive devices – Kids are fascinated by my assistive devices because they are colorful and seem like they should be toys but it is important to remember that it’s not a toy and you shouldn’t give your child someone’s mobility aid to keep them entertained. I sometimes will let kids wheel around in my wheelchair because when you familiarize kids with assistive devices at a young age it helps them be accepting of disabled people as adults. I always make kids ask before letting them play with my mobility aide because it’s important we teach our children that it’s not okay to walk away with someone’s mobility aide. Kids will be kids and sometimes they will get distracted and not bring them back but if you are a parent I can’t stress enough how important it is to remind them to bring it back in one piece. When you let your child walk away with my crutches and leave them on the other side of the room you are taking away my mobility and that is not okay. Teach your kids disability etiquette even if they are not disabled because parents that do not teach that turn their children into rude ableist adults that think disabled people do not deserve to live.
Referring to me as special needs or wheelchair bound- There are many terms people can use to identify as a disabled person and everyone is different but I don’t like most of them because of the terms were created by abled-bodied people and can be considered ablelist. The terms wheelchair-bound and special needs are common terms that are used regularly but it can very be damaging for disabled people and you should stop using them. I hate the term wheelchair-bound because it’s a negative way to identify someone in a wheelchair and the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of that term is restriction and chains. Wheelchairs are freedom no one is bound to their chairs and the correct term is wheelchair user. Special needs is another term that can have negative connotations to it because my needs are not “special” and I have the same human needs we all have. Abled people sometimes don’t think about the language they are using around disabled people but words matter because when you use the wrong term it negatively impacts disabled people in more way than you know.
Pushing my wheelchair without asking- When I am wheeling around town for hours I do not mind being pushed if you ask me because my arms get tired just and sometimes I need a boost. I can’t stand it when people assume that I need help and start pushing me without asking because when you that it takes away the little independence I may have. It takes two seconds to ask someone if they need assistance and you would be surprised of how many times I am not tired and don’t need to be pushed. Some days I want little more exercise and when you push me against my own free will you are not giving me that ability to get some extra strength training.
When you say “let’s race for the hundredth time- There is nothing wrong when you say lets’ race or do you have a license for that thing to a wheelchair user but it’s cheesy and disabled people roll their eyes and think “haven’t heard that one before”.
People that think they deserve a metal for befriending a disabled person- When you are disabled sometimes you run into people that think disabled people only have disabled friends and date other disabled people. It is most certainly is easier to date other disabled people that have our disability who can relate to it because there are some things in life that only disabled people understand and nice to have someone to talk to that gets. The most frustrating things about being disabled is when you meet an abled person who seems nice that starts acting like they deserve a metal for befriending a disabled person. People who act like they just donated their life savings to charity because they dated a disabled person make me sick and should be ashamed of themselves. When you are friends with a disabled person it is nothing to brag about because you shouldn’t be rejected a disabled person solely based on the fact that someone is disabled and people that do have that kind of attitude are contributing to problem of disabled people not feeling loved or accepted.
When you are trying too hard to cure me- When you are disabled it is harder to make friends than it would be for abled-bodied people because you not only have the regular friendship battles but you have to throw a disability on top of that. I have been friends with abled people but it didn’t end up working out because conversations would always have something to do with what I can do to cure myself. Disabled people want you to be our friend and don’t need you to try to “fix us” because we have doctors for that. The biggest problem we have in today’s society isn’t that most disabilities can’t be cured but it’s that abled-bodied people think that you can’t live well without a cure. My disability itself is not the problem and it’s how people react to it when they see my wheelchair. I don’t even talk about cures with my disabled friends because there are other things to talk about and not all disabled people want cures like abled people think we do.
When people say you are not disabled but differently abled- There is nothing wrong with the term differently abled and some disabled people may choose to identify in that way but I think it sounds stupid. In my experience, the only people that use this term are disabled people that have not accepted their disability or abled-bodied people that are not comfortable with using the term disabled. When you tell a disabled person that you do not see them as disabled and that they are not disabled but differently abled you are telling someone how they should identify which can be harmful because the way I identify is not up to abled-bodied people. There are so many ways that a disabled person can choose to identify and not everyone will have the same preference but you should ask and honor whatever terms disabled people prefer to use.
Disabled people often are annoyed by different things than abled-bodied people and not all disabled people will be annoyed by the same things because not all disabled people think the same way. I expect abled people to mess up sometimes and use the wrong terms because some things are not as natural for an abled-bodied person as it would be for someone with a disability. The problem we have in today’s society isn’t only that people are ableist and don’t even realize it but you get so offended when someone calls you out on it instead of recognizing that it affects disabled people negatively and we don’t say these things to be mean but to help you be more aware before saying it to someone else. Disabled people are not discluded from ableism because we can be ableist too and it is something that we all should learn to recognize to better support the disabled community. What are your pet peeves as a disabled person?
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Thanks for understanding!