Ah, disabilities. Whether acquired upon birth or sometime during our lives, some people look at us with curiosity, pushing it as far as pointing fingers. Some offer to pray for us (why?) or avoid us, because who knows, maybe it’s contagious? Not many able-bodied people seem to treat their peers with disabilities as, well – “normal people.” Maybe it’s because they don’t know just how similar we actually are? Well, fear not, because I’m going to give you a little bit of an insight into how we see the world.*
*Do keep in mind these are points I have thought of. If you asked every disabled person in existence, I’m sure you would get many different answers. Nevertheless, here we go:
1. We’re disabled, not contagious. Touching us won’t give you the same condition we have.
2. Our disabilities aren’t the only things that make us who we are. Some of us have pretty amazing things going for us. A friend of mine runs a YouTube channel where she posts content about beauty-related topics, another one travels the world for wheelchair dance championships, and they are just two examples. The point is, if you look past our disabilities, you are sure to find lots of interesting stuff.
3. Asking before you come up to help us means the world. I’m not talking about when we physically fall down and you help us get up – that’s really nice. But when we’re in a situation when moving is harder – if we’re in a wheelchair, for example – please ask if we need help and where we want to go. Shoving us somewhere without even thinking if that’s where we wanted to go is incredibly rude. People with disabilities are not pieces of furniture. We know where we’re headed; please don’t try to read our minds.
4. We might need time to open up to you, but it’s worth it. In many cases we have been in situations when we were excluded from some kinds of activities our peers participated in. And sometimes we might think that’s the way it’s always going to be. Personally, I needed a lot of time to find a group of people at university who made me feel like I belong. But it was worth the search. If you know a disabled person at your university, school, work or anywhere else who doesn’t seem to be talking to anyone, be the first one to start a conversation. You might think it’s not much, but it can really make someone’s day a lot better. And maybe both of you will make a new friend.
5. Some of us actually have a sense of humor. Newsflash: we even joke about our disabilities sometimes. Of course, not everyone is this laid back, so you’ll need to test the waters first. But we can honestly be hilarious sometimes — give me a glass of wine and you’ll see. Twenty minutes in I become a giggly mess, and since laughter can be contagious, you’ll probably become one as well.
6. We are sexual beings. Surprise, surprise! In terms of sexual/romantic attraction and gender we are as diverse as everyone else. We experience sexual attraction, and we aren’t only straight and cisgender. Yes, LGBT+ disabled people exist; one of them has written this text you’re reading!
7. We weren’t born to be your inspiration. This might seem like something completely obvious, but I think everyone would find it a little weird if they were out and about doing the things they usually do and suddenly someone walked up saying how much of an inspiration they are. Honey, just… No. Of course, there are disabled people breaking stereotypes every day; those who climb mountains, give motivational speeches and give hope to others with every word they utter. But not every one of us is that way. Some of us are simply… coping. Living. We on not on the brink of life and death, where every “like” gets us closer to “getting better,” nor are we motivational speakers. We are people, and we have problems like everybody else.
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