English: A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service. A package containing those three and all NPS symbols is available at the Open Icon Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
ince I read a similar article recently I thought I would post some of my biggest disability related pet peeves.. These are in no particular order and will probably number more than 10.
- I am not five years old anymore and even when I was my vocabulary was far more developed than one your using right now.
- If you see me with someone and have a question about my disability ask me rather than my companion. Being spoken about in third person is very rude. You wouldn’t like it if a stranger started asking your friend questions about you with you standing right next to them and able to speak for yourself would you?
- If you aren’t a very close friend or significant other do not lean or prop your feet up on any part of my wheelchair. You have your personal space bubble, I have mine, the wheelchair exists within it. Hands and feet off police.
- To fast food restaurants with takeout service, telemarketers and over the phone customer service representatives: I am aware of what my voice sounds like over the phone, I’m not a very tall person to start with and I’m pretty sure my disability has influenced the pitch of my voice at times, I assure you I am an adult, of legal age to both vote and drink in the United States. Calling me a liar or worse simply hanging up on me because of my voice happens to be pitched is a good way to ensure that you don’t get anymore of my business.
- To all sit down restaurants regardless of whether most of your staff speaks English as a second language or a first: I do not care that some of your waitstaff may be allergic to or afraid of dogs that is not my problem. My golden retriever is federally recognized as a piece of medical equipment which means with very few exceptions but I have the right to take him anywhere I please. You CAN refuse me and my dog access and service. Know that I CAN and WELL file a discrimination lawsuit against you within the week.
- I was not in a car accident nor did my mother use illegal substances before my birth. I do not mind discussing my disability but if you are a random stranger you asked that question with no preamble my answer will probably be something like this “I’m in the chair because of brain damage sustained during my premature birth, do you have brain damage to or are you naturally this route?”
- This kind of goes with the above statement but please stop asking how sex works for me., go back to the I was not in a car accident and even if I was that would still work okay. I am a “real girl” and neither one of my partners has complained yet.
- If you see my dog and my out shopping or at the library etc. ask to pick him before doing so. Do not sneak pet him by learning your fingers through his coat as we by, he is friendly and loves meeting new people so chances are if you ask and I’m not in a huge hurry I will let him visit with you. Like the wheelchair the dog is an extension of my personal space. You do not touch him without express permission
- I do not need to be healed. I know you mean well and you might honestly believe that you can help me by laying hands on me and praying over me. I thank you for your concern. The problem with something like sad is that in order to have any chance of success at all both the person trying to create the healing and the person being healed have to believe it will be effective. I don’t. I mean no disrespect to your religious beliefs but they aren’t mine, never have been and never will be I have spent years working on my acceptance of self. I struggle daily to see myself as simply me rather than a defective version of myself it would be better off without any trace of disability. It’s not easy and your intentions although well-meaning only serve to undermine my somewhat fragile sense of self.
- I am not a saint. Growing up I had fights with my sister. I pulled her hair. I waited three days to bite her after she made fun of me. When I was eight I had to get my teeth wired straight because of a fall I made a big deal because I got to eat milkshakes and smoothies and ice cream for two weeks solid and she still had to eat mostly regular food. I got punched in the mouth for that and I deserved it to. She and I thought as teenagers every chance we had, I fought with my parents… A lot. My legs may not work right but I still have feet of clay. I am an ordinary person just trying to make it through life. I have challenges that you don’t and probably some coping mechanisms that you never thought of but then again I’m sure the same could be said of anyone. Do not pity me. Help me if I ask for it. Be glad when I succeed. Commiserate with me when I fail and encourage me to try again. That’s all anybody really wants from life isn’t it?
Pollyanna (1960 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I can be a very cynical person. A certain percentage of able-bodied people expect those with disabilities to have a Pollyanna attitude all the time. Pollyanna has not lived in my house on a regular basis since about the fifth grade ask my mother if you don’t believe me. Where the able-bodied community got the idea that we are perfect angels all the time I have no clue. Personally I have been known to swear and drink alcohol on occasion. Yes I am perfectly capable of sex you can ask either one of the two people standing behind me. Yes I realize that there is both a man and woman standing behind me and I’m so glad you’re smart enough to know the difference between the two. Not all disabled people choose to date others with disabilities even though you obviously think we should. Do you also think interracial marriages should still be illegal?
Why do you think it necessary to speak extra slowly to me? I promise you there is nothing wrong with my hearing or comprehension though I am beginning to wonder about yours. Please do not hurry your children away from me when they have a question. I am not a leper and treating me as such it is very hurtful. I have no intention of harming your child and they cannot catch my disorder I promise. The only thing that will result from there talking to me is a smile, an age-appropriate answer to the question, and permission to pet my Golden Retriever sidekick if they wish, nothing more.
If you see me in a store, restaurant etc. I would appreciate it if you would not address questions about me to whoever happens to be with me. Rest assured I am perfectly capable of understanding English. I am also perfectly capable of answering for myself. I realize that some people in wheelchairs often cannot do one or the other but it is impolite and presumptuous to assume. Please be advised that such an assumption is likely to elicit a smart ass, sarcastic, and/ or just plain rude response from me.
To parents shopping with children: I realize my service dog has more charm than should be legal. I also realized that he and children attract each other like magnets. Most of the time I do not mind stopping and chatting with you and your kids about him, it really does brighten my day. I do however request that you not let your children touch him without asking my permission first. He doesn’t bite and children on his favorite things in the world but I view the area that he occupies beside me as an extension of my personal space bubble and would greatly appreciate you and your children asking permission before entering it. I thank you for your consideration and politeness and taking the time to read this.
Note: this letter is written to all able-bodied people from the perspective a 25 year-old disabled woman, namely me. The opinions in this letter are mine and should not be used to make blanket assumptions about the disabled community in general, though I wouldn’t be surprised to find that a lot of disabled people would agree with me.
Dear Able-Bodied Citizen:
I realize that I am something of a curiosity for you, my battery-powered wheelchair, bent hands, muscle spasms in chronically bad posture is definitely strange. I am writing this letter will in an attempt to treat your ignorance and inform you of some of your habits that drive me crazy.
- If you are in a store with your children and they ask what is wrong with me do not tell them to avert their eyes and hurry past.Just because you were taught that this is acceptable behavior doesn’t mean you are correct. If your kids want to know why I am it in a chair tell them to ask me. I will not bite or give them a communicable disease, what I will do is give them an age-appropriate answer to the question in the hope that the next generation is better informed than the previous ones.
- Just because I use a wheelchair please do not assume I am below average intelligence.In simpler terms do not speak to me as though I am I am five years old, it’s demeaning and insults both of our intelligences.
- Please do not pat me on the head.I am a person not a pet and since you are a stranger to me you have no right to touch me like that anyway.
- Do not assume that you can ask very personal questions within five minutes of meeting me.Do not ask me if I am capable of having children right after we are introduced, you don’t need to know unless you are interested in that happening and if you are interested the fact that you brought it up so soon is almost a guarantee that I will not be interested.
- If I am in a store with a dog there is a reason.I realize that most retail stores, theaters, restaurants etc.have a “no dogs allowed” policy, in my case however in most circumstance I have legal grounds to disregard that rule. The dog you see walking beside me is trained or in training to be a physical extension of me, bridging the gap between what I want to do and what my body is physically capable of, the federal government views a service animal as a four-legged piece of medical equipment, telling me that my dog isn’t allowed is the same as denying me the use of my wheelchair.
I hope this letter has been informative without being rude and I appreciate the time you took to read it.
Just Another Citizen of the Human Race