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10 Things People With Disabilities Are Tired of Hearing

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It can be incredibly easy to say things we don’t mean. Words can be hurtful, especially when the things spoken directly attack aspects of our identity we can’t change.

Whether or not it’s intended, abled individuals often say things to those of us with disabilities that is incredibly harmful. After hearing certain things said for extended periods, these phrases can also add insult to injury, wearing disabled persons down emotionally. Similar things said to partners or caretakers of a disabled person can also be incredibly hurtful.

There are also a variety of different disabilities — physical, mental, chronic illness — so depending, you may hear different but just as ableist phrases. We asked The Mighty’s disability community what things they’re tired of hearing because you’re not the only one hearing these things.

If you are disabled and had these hurtful things said to you, please know that you are seen and deserve to be treated with respect. And for all your able-bodied people out there, take note of this list of phrases you’ll want to avoid when speaking to your disabled friends, family, and coworkers.

Here’s what our community shared:

1. ‘You would never know you had a disability.’

This can be especially hurtful, simply for the identity-based aspect. Disabled people have to live with their identity being tied to things that they would often love to be able to do but can’t due to the nature of their physical or mental differences to that of abled people.

2. ‘What’s wrong with them?’

This question is incredibly insensitive, but often one that individuals ask of caretakers, parents, or to the partner of a disabled person. A person’s disability is none of your business; it is an aspect of their identity that should be cherished should they choose to share that aspect of themselves with you.

3. ‘Anything is possible if you try hard enough.’

Not everything is possible for a person with a disability (or many people, honestly). There may be triggers that must be conscientiously avoided if the individual struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There may be inaccessible areas that a person in a wheelchair cannot access. The unfortunate reality is not everything is possible because not everything is accessible. 

4. ‘Maybe if you moved more you wouldn’t hurt so much.’

As mentioned before, movement isn’t always achievable with certain disabilities. Exercise and weight loss are two aspects often touted by individuals who often don’t understand what’s at stake for individuals who have disabilities to put their bodies through physical exercise without assistance or the watchful eye of a physical therapist.

5. ‘It can’t be that bad, knock it off.’

As someone with a chronic illness that is incredibly painful to live with, I have two things for you. Yes, it definitely CAN be that bad, and I would love nothing more than to be able to just blow off my pain levels.  

6. ‘Everyone gets tired.’

Everyone DOES get tired, but the levels and experiences of mind-numbing fatigue that disabled people have on a daily basis are vastly different than how an abled person undergoes tiredness or exhaustion. Another factor that plays into fatigue is that certain levels of pain severely impact sleep patterns, which can subsequently impact brain function, emotional stability and more.

7. ‘I wish I could bring my dog everywhere.’

Service animals of any nature are working animals. While service animals are treated while off the clock as family pets, they are creatures who operate with considerable care of the person who relies on them. An abled person’s dog is NOT the same thing as a service animal.

8. ‘You’re too young to be hard of hearing.’

More people than you realize are hard of hearing or deaf, and it’s not because they just listened to a lot of loud music when they were younger. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one in eight people in the United States is hard of hearing in both ears. While the rate increases in older adults, people of any age can be hard of hearing or deaf.

9. ‘You are an inspiration.’

While this phrase is often meant to be encouragement, disabled individuals just want to be able to live their lives while not being an example to or for anyone. While many individuals’ stories are unique (and that’s why platforms like The Mighty are so important), it is a private journey that some may not be forthcoming to share. That’s perfectly understandable and their right.

10. ‘Let me pray you get healed.’

Another often well-meant phrase, unless you are already familiar with an individual’s religious persuasion it’s best to avoid telling someone you’re pray for their “healing.” The healing of a disability in some cases is simply not possible, so this can be incredibly harmful for many different reasons.

What phrases are you tired of hearing? Let us know in the comments!

Header image via Yomex Owo/Unsplash

Originally published: August 14, 2020
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