My colleagues have written some poignant pieces about What Not to Say to a Person Who Uses a Wheelchair, and What Not to Say to the Spouse of a Person with a Disability which have elicited some negative feedback. The comments started to pour in, “this article does nothing more than to make the able bodied be more afraid to approach you,” said one. “To hang a sign on the chair to basically say do not approach me or I will be offended,” said another.
Okay, a couple things. First, I don’t wear signs. They make my butt look big. And two, I can fully assure you that the intention of the aforementioned articles was not to try and convince you to resist approaching a wheelchair-user or a couple that contains a person with a disability.
In fact, I love talking to people! So, let me clarify some of your concerns.
1) “Ladies and gentleman, start your engines.” – NASCAR
From the comment: “What gives you the right to travel fast on a sidewalk or down a hall? Maybe your low center of gravity makes you oblivious.”
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Are you a scientist with knowledge that should be put into a scientific journal? Do people driving Lamborghinis not realize how fast they are going? While they may be oblivious to how ridiculous they look driving a $100,000 race car in the middle of a city with bumper to bumper traffic, I think they are fully aware of their speed.
Let me tell you a story. When I was seven, I became a master of Super Mario Bros and Tetris. No one could beat me. Not to brag but I learned at a young age that my hand-eye coordination is just plain superior. I utilize this neurological domination daily as I drive top speed through the extensive crowds in Times Square to get to my performances, for which, I am probably late. Weaving in and out of tourists with the precision of a Formula 1 driver, dodging the people texting and walking, and avoiding any toe casualties. It’s pretty impressive. Do I think this gives me the right to continue to ride as quickly as I feel is warranted in the situation? You’re damn right I do.However, if you really still want to say something to me about driving too quickly, may I suggest praise? I never hear compliments on this exceptional maneuvering. So, if you see me dashing through New York City, Philadelphia, or any other city feel free to commend me on my impressive driving skills. I’d love to hear it!
2) “I do appreciate you being ’round” – The Beatles
From the comment: “You’re afraid to ask for help.”
I’m afraid of a lot of things; Needles, germs, E.T., but I’m not afraid to ask for help, when warranted. It’s true what they say. While we are extremely appreciative and realize your heart is in the right place, people with disabilities don’t always need help or want it. For instance, I push doors open with my chair, navigate my way through Target like I own the place and get in and out of my accessible van at least 10 times a day. I’m also incredibly stubborn and will try to open a bag of chips for thirty minutes because I’m determined to do it myself.
There is one exception to this rule. I’m looking at you, super attractive gentleman. If a super hot guy comes up to me and asks if I need help, I am 100 percent going to act like I do, even I am perfectly fine. I may even drop something a few times–I’m not above it. Offering to help me make dinner and then ensuring my lips work properly, is also definitely welcomed. I probably wont let him open my chips though. I am German.
3) “I’m no one special, just another wide eyed girl” – Taylor Swift
From the comment: “do you think you’re the only people in the world who get “unoriginal and unfunny” jokes and comments all the time?”
Wait, what? Other people who are different get called obnoxious names? This is news! That is what you would say if you never completed kindergarten. Yes, we are fully aware we are not the sole recipients of societal monikers. In fact, I love nicknames. My friends call me “nerd mobile” on a regular basis. If you have a funny term of endearment you want to throw our way, go for it. We’re just suggesting you put thought into the names you call out.
For instance if I saw a guy walking down the street with red hair and referred to him as “Ron Weasley,” that’s not clever. However, if I referred to him as Jeff (let’s assume that’s his name), got to know him and then called him “Walker, Texas Ranger” because he could kick your ass, that would be fantastic.
4) “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want” – The Spice Girls
From the comment: “Bear it with grace and understanding.” (In regards to Talking to My Significant Other and Not Me).
This is an interesting one, because my feelings can go both ways on whether I should just grin and bear the fact that I may as well be Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. If I am handing you my credit card, with my name on it, that means money will soon be leaving my account. I don’t like that to happen often, so in order to make me feel better, looking at me, may help ease that pain.
Also, if you are going to engage in interesting conversation with such topics as the Daily Show, the Chicago Cubs or dessert of any kind, yes please engage and talk to me. I love those things. However, if you are a boring and an uninteresting person who would like to talk about your cats, what’s wrong with me or the New York Yankees, then yes, please talk to my boyfriend. I keep him around as a buffer between me and people I don’t actually want to talk to. He has lots of random knowledge and more patience than me. So, please talk him. I won’t be offended. I’ll be over here “acting” like I’m just grinning and bearing your ignorance, but in reality will be thinking about where I can find a cookie.
5.) “Your body is a wonderland” – John Mayer
From the comment: “As a non disabled person, being a wheelchair-user has it’s perks.”
You’re totally right! Good parking? Awesome. Skipping lines at Disney World? So great! (And apparently, a money maker–I’m looking into it!) However, everyone knows these are the perks. You don’t need to ask me about them. You know the answer. It’s like asking someone “is getting free pizza cool?” Yes. Obviously. I would love to talk to you about the perks of using a wheelchair. Yet, if you’re going to ask me about said perks, here are some perks I’d love to expand on:
- Ordering off the kids menu without getting weird looks.
- Getting out of jury duty.
- Getting out of speeding and parking tickets.
- Not having to sit on the gross seats that appear to never have been cleaned on the train.
- Driving a van that can double as a fighter jet.
- Having a great view of some of the best butts in the country.
As I said, I’d love to speak with you. Unless I have my headphones in with Mumford and Sons blaring and I’m right in the middle of a round of Candy Crush. Other than that, please, approach me.