Many people who meet someone with a disability are quick to go above and beyond to make them feel ‘comfortable.’ However, this may be well-intended but often ends up having the opposite effect. This week, a Lai Chi-wai, an active wheelchair user, pulled himself up a skyscraper in Hong Kong, which certainly proved that being disabled does not mean you lack courage and strength!
From intrusive probing to unsolicited advice, read on to find things you should stop saying to disabled people.
‘But You’re So Young’
Disability can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or socio-economic background. Just because someone is young or beautiful doesn’t make them immune to disabilities. They know they are young, your statement drenched in pity is helping no one.
‘Have You Tried This New Diet or Exercise’
Do you think disabled people are just winging it when it comes to overcoming a disability? They probably have been consulting a team of medical professionals on a regular basis and looking forward to hiring a home health aide. A vegan diet or some random workout class is not going to magically cure their disability. You’re not an expert, so stop giving advice like one.
‘You Look Normal & Healthy’
Often people with invisible disabilities are subjected to the ‘you look so normal and healthy’ comments. You may think you’re complimenting them, but in a way, you’re invalidating their disability. Just because you’re not aware of their medical condition doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. No disabled person wants to justify their disability, so don’t put them in a position where they have to.
‘I Don’t Know How You’re Able To Go About Your Everyday Life’
Yes, disability is tough, but it doesn’t necessarily take away a person’s will to live! It’s extremely insensitive to question someone’s will to live by expressing that you can’t imagine how they are able to go about their everyday life.
‘At Least You Get A Special Parking Spot!’
Years and years of chronic pain and thousands of dollars worth of medical bills, but disabled people get a special parking spot. They’ve truly hit the jackpot!
Still to this day, many places, including doctor’s offices and clinics, aren’t accessible for people with disabilities. Moreover, people with disabilities are blatantly discriminated against when it comes to employment.
Is all that worth a special parking spot?
‘I Met Someone with a Disability, But You Don’t Look Like Them’
Wow, what a brilliant observation. But it would be better to keep that to yourself than sharing it with the entire room. No two people with disabilities will look the exact same. Shun your assumptions of what a disabled person is supposed to look like and broaden your horizons.
‘You’re So Inspiring’
Just because a disabled person is going about their everyday life doesn’t automatically make them inspiring.
‘So What Happened?’
Seriously! You just met this person, how can you ask them such a personal question? You don’t go to a party and ask someone why they are getting divorced. Some questions are simply off-limits, especially if you have no prior relationship with the person. Give them their space, and they will tell you if they want to.
‘This is God’s Plan’
This is not the time or place to become an evangelist. Saying ‘It’s all God’s plan’ to a person enduring chronic pain and countless doctor’s visits don’t sound like the best idea. Your faith may bring you peace but stop imposing it on disabled people.
Helping Without Asking
If you see a person with a disability, don’t just run and grab them or their stuff with the intention to help them.
Disabled people are people at the end of the day. Your inquisition and sympathy may mean well but are simply annoying and even frustrating. So take a few seconds and think about what you’re going to say.
By Nitika with FreedomCare