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10 Things Every Person with a Disability Should Hear

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Make no mistake – people with disabilities love to hear good things. Praise, respect, jokes, romantic overtures, bring it on.  They can turn a crappy day into an awesome one, but only if the words are uttered.  For those who love interacting with people with disabilities, or have no problem with it whatsoever, here are 10 things you can say that will brighten our day.

1) “You’re hired”

Roughly 10 percent of the labor force are people with disabilities. To all the people out there thinking we’re lazy, it’s only because employers don’t want to hire us.  Being turned down because we’re disabled is a common practice by businesses and other places looking for talent across the country. It’s illegal, but it happens. Some places are awesome and do give us a chance, but this is not as frequent as it should be.

2) “Yes, we are accessible”

When hunting for accessible accommodations when traveling or even trying to make reservations at a restaurant in old part of town, hearing the phrase “Why yes we are accessible” is one of the sweetest thing to our ears. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of people with disabilities. Maybe it’s a ramp, an elevator, closed-captioning, grab bars, whatever constitutes accessibility to you, but hearing these worry-erasing words can be better than taking a xanax, especially when you’re on the road.

3) “You’re beautiful”

Another phrase we love to hear that’s universal is, “You’re beautiful,” or for the guys, “You’re hot.” Feeling sexually attractive is a huge happy-maker on the brain. It can be hard enough feeling attractive if you’re able bodied, it’s even harder when you have a disability and don’t fit the social norm of what’s considered attractive.  For many of us, to hear this phrase just once would be one of the greatest things ever.

4) “I forgot you were disabled”

Nothing makes me happier when someone forgets I have a disability.  It’s usually the only thing most people think about and if you ask me, it’s worse than racism. Ableism is the name of the game. Whenever you get close to someone though and they have a moment where they forget you’re disabled, you know they’ve finally come to a point where they don’t think about your disability.  They finally see you for you.

5) “May I help you?”

Hearing the words, “May I help you?” are paramount to telling someone you respect them in the disability world.  There’s nothing worse than someone taking your bags and carrying them without asking you first.  The helping without asking thing can be quite jarring, especially if you’re in a wheelchair and you come up behind us. I have a friend who, while riding the subway NYC, had a stranger come up behind her wheelchair and start pushing her without asking. This is one of the worst things you could ever do to a wheelchair-user.

6) “Cool” instead of “Good for you”

A really simple one is taking the “Good for you” out of your vocabulary and replacing it with “Cool” or some other positive phrase, and not over emphasizing their successes in life just because the person has a disability.  I can’t stand anyone who says “Good for you” when you tell them about your life.  Whenever they respond in a normal manner as if they would with anyone else makes me elated beyond belief.

7) “I love you”

Everybody wants to be loved and of course we are no different. Having someone tell us “I love you” is the epitome of acceptance in a romantic relationship, and most people with disabilities still want this in their life. We do not want to live solitary lives even if our disability is hard.  We of course don’t want someone to lie and tell us they love us just to make us feel good in some kind of condescending way, but a lot of people with disabilities are single.  It’s sad when so many people don’t give someone with a disability a chance.

8) “It’s fixed!”

Mobility devices from wheelchairs and walkers to shower chairs and automatic lifts all breakdown more often than they should. Try using a wheelchair for a couple of weeks and see what I mean.  It’s not like a watch breaking or anything like that when our things break. It’s a big deal. It’s our “legs,” the only vehicle we could ever drive, our breathing machine.  When our things break, we’re really stuck. So to hear the words “It’s fixed,” well… it can make us happier than a bucket full of clams.

9) “We’ll still figure out a way to make it work”

When you do come across a place that is not accessible, most places are afraid of liability and don’t even try to get you in thinking creatively.  It can be a really heartbreaking.  Feeling like you’re being discriminated against is never good, especially when they don’t understand your perspective. When you do run across a business that is more than willing to jerry-rig a solution, “Sure, we can figure out a way to make it work,” oh we love you. This phrase gives us faith in humanity.

Related: 12 Things Every Business Can Do Right Now to Better Serve People with Disabilities

10) “I don’t care if you have a disability”

When you first meet someone on a romantic or  a friendship basis, hearing the sweet words, “I don’t care you’re disabled” is the ultimate thing we could hear. We’re so often turned down or not included because of our disability. It’s a fact of life, so to hear these words staves off one of our biggest worries.

So there you have it. Ten ultimate things we like to hear. We may not get a chance to hear all of these things in our lives, but if we could hear just a few, oh we’d be some mighty happy people.

What phrases do you love hearing as a person with a disability?

More From This Author: Don’t Count Us Out: People with Disabilities Love Sex Too

See Also: 5 Clever Comebacks to Deface Disability Stereotypes

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About Tiffiny Carlson

Tiffiny Carlson is a writer and quadriplegic from Minneapolis. She has a C6 spinal cord injury from a diving accident when she was 14 years old. Writing and breaking stereotypes is her passion. She's been the SCI Life columnist for New Mobility magazine since 2003 and is the founder of the longtime disability site, Her work has also been featured in Penthouse, Playgirl and And when she's not writing, Tiffiny loves to cook and practice adaptive yoga.

18 Responses

  1. [...] “my company kept me employed all this time,” he says, adding, “I hope to go back to work in the next few months, but a [...]

  2. avatar Jessie says:

    This made my day thank you! I was born with CP and as I’ve gotten older it’s getting harder and harder to go out and see the world….I walk with the help of canes but it’s still never the same thing being around friends who can walk, they don’t know the struggles.

  3. avatar darwin Vaught says:

    Smartphones are essential reasonable accommodations right now, if you so choose. Accessible technology exists that empowers all people impacted by disability to easily and immediately increase new avenues of self directed communication with others they meet, through taking their pictures, recording sounds, using symbols to express their unique thoughts when speaking is difficult, networking with others as they choose, get on line and find out what is happening in their communities, show their family things they like and don’t, use facebook to share their delights with others, record their lessons and do them when they feel inspired to learn, find community resources,events and directions to get there and so much more. Share happy respectful time learning and exploring smartphones together. You will be astonished and humbled at what you learn. Share positives and not pity, as you so choose.

  4. avatar David Prowse says:

    Have a relative in a chair, been there for years. Seldom even think of him as being in a chair. Love him and always will.

  5. avatar Tim de Visser says:

    I love the concept of this article, but I disagree with #4. If you think forgetting a part of me is a compliment, than you don’t like all of me. You’re saying it’s a good thing part of me is invisible. It’s also likely to cause problems. it’s a real thing you need to deal with. Forgetting that people can’t walk stairs, are in constant pain or can’t eat sugar is not flattering to them in a lot of cases.

  6. avatar Tim de Visser says:

    Just like ‘being colorblind’ is really just ignoring race, it makes people feel hesitant to bring up real problems. It says that people should take care not to appear different. You are being complimented for succesfully hiding part of yourself. It reinforces the idea that ‘normal’ is the ideal, but that’s harmful. Accept difference. Learn to be comfortable with it. Don’t erase it.

  7. avatar Eric says:

    What a great list. If you do come across a place that is not accessible, we would be happy to help them.


  8. avatar dowdy says:

    another crappy super-crip ever fucking our minds that we aren’t upto sccratch, haven’t accomplished enough. well does she do that with constant pain- i for one think that she represents no one i know and i can think of a few disabled people a who can write a more representative list.

  9. avatar Harlan says:

    Thank you MS Carlson for this list; we’ve shared it with our community, Red Flyer, The Handicapped Pets Community, with the belief that these same ten postulates apply to our charges just as to humans.

  10. [...] More From This Author: 10 Things Every Person with a Disability Should Hear [...]

  11. avatar Yulia says:

    “I forgot you were disabled” and “I don’t care if you have a disability” are two of the most offensive, disrespectful things that someone could say to a person with a disability. It is NOT a compliment. My disability, my impairments are a huge part of who I am and have shaped my career and my life. If someone doesn’t care about that, then they really don’t care about me.

    • avatar Anne says:

      I have to disagree, To say “I forgot” is the highest form of acceptance you can give a person with a physical disability. They see you for who really are, not a label or a stereotype, like “Inspiration” or an object of pity.

  12. [...] See Also: 10 Things Every Person with a Disability Should Hear [...]

  13. avatar Peaches says:

    I could personally have done without the “I don’t care/forgot you were disabled” bit.

    Maybe it’s different for people with physical or acquired disabilities, but personally my (neurological) disability is a part of who I am rather than a bolt-on optional extra. So, in that context, that sentence has the same tone as “I forgot you were a woman”. And that comes across more odd and vaguely creepy than complimentary.

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