Yesterday, I blogged about Melaniie Murphy’s video ‘What Not To Say To People With Acne’ and, though I thought I wouldn’t do a similar post about disability, I’ve decided to write one.
When I first started working with the therapist I see now, she taught me that you can’t control how anyone responds to anything. You have no control over other people’s thoughts or responses. She’s right. With that in mind, I understand that I can’t control people’s questions or comments about my disability, but I can write about things I wish people were more mindful of.
1. Don’t tell me to find a partner who has a disability.
I have been told more than once that I should actively seek out a boyfriend (and eventual husband) who has a disability because we would have a shared perspective. I have written about this before: I don’t believe people can know what I have been through or what I go through even if they have disabilities. Even if my boyfriend did have a disability, I wouldn’t consider that a factor in possible compatibility, especially since he might not want to talk about it. The truth is that I have dated two men who had disabilities, and that didn’t bother me and it didn’t matter in the context of our relationships. I am much more concerned with a potential partner’s personality, values, and intelligence than any disability he might have. If I met the man of my dreams and he happened to have a disability, that wouldn’t matter to me. We’d just do the best we could together.
2. Don’t tell me that my disability makes me interesting.
I have only heard this one once, but it really hurt me and struck me as odd. I understand that the person was trying to be compassionate and understanding, but this was right after she’d told me her husband said he didn’t want to have a disabled child. My disability doesn’t make me interesting or add ‘something special’ to who I am.
3. Don’t try to relate to me by telling me about your own disability or the disability of your friend, classmate, brother, or ex roommate.
I don’t care.
4. Don’t congratulate me for what I have accomplished.
It makes me feel like you don’t believe it’s possible that people with disabilities can be educated, employed, independent and fully functioning people. We can be.
5. Don’t tell me not to work on overcoming my impairment.
It’s like if I had cancer and you said, ‘Don’t get chemotherapy because your cancer is part of who you are.’
6. Don’t tell me I am pretty or smart ‘even though I have a disability’ as though people with disabilities can’t be beautiful or intelligent.
I have a hard enough time accepting compliments about my physical self. I don’t want disability and beauty to be considered mutually exclusive.
7. Don’t congratulate me for getting out of bed in the morning.
8. Do not point out my disability to me – stiffness in my legs or my limp – as though I don’t even know I have it.
The most hurtful things anyone can say are, ‘What’s wrong with you,’ ‘What happened to you,’ ‘Do you have a problem with your body/leg/foot’ and ‘You’re limping,’ as though I don’t know. I hate when people ask me what’s wrong with me because there isn’t anything wrong with me. Having a disability doesn’t mean there is something wrong with me.