When People Talk Down to Me Because of My Disability

See a person as more than their said “disability.” See them as any other person who could be of value to society. Someone who can contribute, despite whatever limitations they may possess.

If you see a person who has an apparent physical disability (someone who uses a wheelchair, for example) don’t immediately assume they have an intellectual disability. Don’t walk up to them and ask them a demeaning question in a childlike voice — it gets really annoying. Treat them like a human being who is quite capable of many things.

Since I have cerebral palsy and use a power chair, it is not out of the ordinary for a stranger to walk up to me and start treating me like a child. Believe me, it happens a lot. I could write a whole book on my experiences. But I don’t get angry with the person. In fact, I usually just answer whatever foolish question they ask me and laugh about it later with my mom. This has happened so many times, it’s become a comical aspect of my everyday life. The more ridiculous the question, the more hilarious it is.

It does make me extremely frustrated, though, to think this is a societal norm. People often see a wheelchair and immediately disregard the person in it. Disregard that they might have feelings or intelligence. That is something that annoys the heck out of me. Sometimes I want to talk back to the people who “talk down” to me. But number one: I don’t want to be rude. Number two: if they’re around me long enough, they’ll get the idea that I’m intelligent. Number three: they haven’t been taught any differently. Society has made them think this way. I’m hoping with time that will change.

I hope you take these words to heart, and that the next you encounter a situation like I’ve just mentioned, you approach the person with as much respect as you would any other person. I hope you see more than their disability. If you are the one receiving belittlement, I challenge you (and myself as well) to approach people in a polite manner, while at the same time giving them a glimpse of the abilities you possess. Let’s change the societal norm.

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