Divya Babba, a 19 year old wheelchair user with spinal muscular atrophy, reveals the offensive, ridiculous and frankly absurd things people say to wheelchair users.
Have you experienced these, or similar,comments or questions? If you have, or even if you haven’t, can you suggest suitable responses?
I was having dinner and, when it was my turn to order, the waiter pointed at me and asked my friend, “And what will she have?”
This wasn’t the first time that someone had underestimated my ability to think and speak. When you’re in a wheelchair, people often think your disability affects your brain and not just your body. The unfamiliarity of being around a disabled person can cause people to come out with the most absurd things. Do they see the unexpected and panic? Are they just ignorant? Maybe a bit of both. Either way, here’s my top pick of the most ridiculous FAQs and opening gambits:
1. “So, what’s wrong with you?” – Many people are under the impression that this is the conversational equivalent of “How are you?” It’s not.
2. “Can you have sex?” – Last time I checked, I still had all my lady parts.
3. “Do you sleep in your chair?” – Just because I can’t walk, it doesn’t mean that I can’t sleep in a bed.
4. “If I were in your shoes, I would never be able to leave the house.”– You’d feel differently if you were. Everybody learns to cope with his/her disadvantages.
5. “You’re so pretty, even though you’re in a wheelchair.” – Thanks!
6. “You should really try to walk instead of relying on your wheelchair. It might help.” – I would if I could, don’t ya think?
7. “Why do you wear shoes if you don’t need them?” – First of all, shoes are fashionable. Second, they keep your feet warm. Third, do you take your shoes off every time you sit down?
8. “Do you have a licence for that thing?” – This question is usually accompanied by a chuckle… it’s not funny.
9. “Do you ever wish that your siblings were disabled instead of you?” – I was asked this question at a university interview and was too stunned to retort, “Do you ever wish your siblings were socially inept instead of you?”
10. “You’re actually really smart. Wow!”
11. “You’re so lucky you use a wheelchair and can sit down all day!” – Oh boy, I know, livin’ the dream.
12. “Can I please pray for you?”– No thanks, I’m fine. Pray for people who are starving or dying in war.
13. “Be careful not to run me over!” – Believe me, if I run you over, it won’t be a mistake.
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