While we claim to live in a modernized as well as civilized society, there are still many things we need to learn to actually be “civilized” and “sensitive” human beings. One such thing is disability etiquette!
It is worth noting here that no one would have ever needed to read about disability etiquette if they only see a person with a disability as a fellow human being rather than a ‘disabled body’. Here we are listing a few common patronizing assumptions and insulting quips that wheelchair users (a section of the disabled community) frequently come across. If you find yourself using any such statements while interacting with a wheelchair user, you should seriously need to mend your ways. And, if you don’t, the society is lucky to have a humane human being like you as its part.
1. Why are you sitting on that thing? You look perfectly normal… why don’t you stand up and walk?
It’s so rude to assume that a person who does not need a wheelchair will roam around sitting on it. No one uses a wheelchair for fun. A wheelchair user need not have excessively thin legs as compared to the torso or in any way a dis-balanced body. There are many disabilities that are not visually evident but they do affect a person’s physical ability.
2. Why are you pushing that thing yourself? Isn’t anyone with you? Why did you come alone?
Don’t assume that if a person uses a wheelchair, they must be accompanied or escorted by someone else. If a person is maneuvering their wheelchair themselves, this means they are able to do that task by themselves. Infantilizing and useless sympathizing is both irritating and insulting.
3. Can I have a ride?
Really? Do you expect the wheelchair user to get up and do some warm-up jogging while you take a ride around in their wheelchair? That request sounds cute from a child’s mouth and most of the wheelchair user would happily take the child in their lap for giving them a ride. But, it is not acceptable from a grown-up.
4. What disability does your partner have? Does your spouse too use a wheelchair?
There’s nothing wrong in two wheelchair users being life-partners. But, assuming that a wheelchair user’s spouse too uses a wheelchair or is inflicted with some kind of disability is certainly wrong.
5. Can you have kids? Will they be normal kids?
As sex is a taboo in India, people eager about a wheelchair user’s sexuality ask them an indirect question… can you have kids? Wheelchair users too are a human being and so you don’t have a right to invade into their privacy. Stop assuming that people with disability are asexual beings. And, you must also note that most of the disabilities are non-genetic in nature.
6. I believe you will walk one day. Just keep praying to God and he will excuse your sins.
Don’t you think it’s quite insulting to go to a random person and tell them that they are sinners? A person on wheelchair might start walking in 6-months or they might live permanently with that situation. This depends on their medical condition. Don’t take someone’s disability as an opportunity to advertise your religious beliefs.
7. How do you go with things like… umm… using a toilet?
I don’t understand why someone would like to listen to such a description. Please stop invading someone’s private space.
Before winding up this article, here’s one last suggestion for you – do not push anyone’s wheelchair without their permission. If a wheelchair user is blocking your way, ask them politely and they will surely move to give you space. If you won’t sling someone on your shoulder and put them few feet away, you should not do the same thing with a wheelchair user.
We hope that this article will help in sensitizing our readers. Thank you for connecting with WeCapable!