In recognition of Scope’s “See the Person” week I have decided to do a little initiative of my own.
As somebody with a severe physical disability I hope to make it easier for people who still have trouble when confronted by somebody like myself.
Some people still have a lot of trouble speaking to people with a disability. Younger people generally do not have this problem as more and more people with disabilities are in mainstream schools. You also see people with disabilities out in the community.
30 years ago the world simply wasn’t like this. People with disabilities were sent to special schools even people with physical disabilities. They were also sent to live at institutions where they were kept safely isolated from the rest of the community. People with disabilities who did live at home were encouraged to stay at home. Those that did venture out met with constant staring, verbal abuse and outright discrimination.
The rights of people with disabilities has come a long way in those 30 years. There is a much greater understanding of disability, but confusion still remains. Should you use the word handicapped or disabled? (I don’t understand the difference myself.) Many are terribly afraid of offending a disabled person often to the point of being unable to speak to a disabled person.
Disabled people have an undeserved reputation for being easily offended. I believe this is because some people feel they need to make conversation whenever they come across somebody with a disability. It is easy to forget that you ignore the vast majority of people only speaking to them when you need to. Why is this rule forgotten when faced with disability?
It is easy to get a little snappy when you have been told, “you drive well”, or “nice wheelchair” or “you’re speedy” or “where are your L plates?” for the hundredth time that day. It is also terribly irritating for people to use an assumed nickname like, “Wheels”. When you see somebody with an incredibly large nose do you say, “how is your nose today?” or “nobody knows nose” or “you must smell good”?
Doing the right thing around people with disabilities is damn easy. Simply treat them exactly as you would another person because that is exactly what somebody with a disability is – a normal everyday person.
If you don’t know whether or not to open the door for someone in a wheelchair just remember the same roles of common courtesy apply to disabled people. If somebody looks like they are having trouble with a door, like if their arms are full of shopping bags, you would help – the same rules apply.
It has happened to friends of mine where they have opened the door for somebody with a disability and have been unfairly attacked verbally by the disabled person, “do I look like I need help etc” Just remember there is never anything wrong with offering help and if somebody has a problem with that is their problem not yours.
The thing about disability which makes it different from other minorities is anyone could join it at any moment. You could be hit by a car or have a stroke you could catch an illness that paralyses you or you could grow old. Disability completely ignores race religion and financial status.
I hope I have helped.