Ending the Awkard
Ask! Don’t assume.
“Disability” is stigmatized in our society, and a change in the cultural perspective is long overdue. Individuals don’t live WITH a disability, they LIVE, just like everyone else… and shouldn’t be treated any differently than anyone else working to follow their passions. Doing so doesn’t make them brave, or inspiring. “Living with a disability” implies a stigmatized connotation. Suggesting that doing so is “brave” or “inspiring” or even “courageous” further suggests that this stigma is founded upon fear. Why should anyone be afraid of working to pursue their own interests, achieve their personal goals, and be successful? Why? Don’t assume you know what it is like to live in someone else’s shoes. ASK! Talk to them. Take a few minutes and read the article “I’m Not Brave” by Katie Rose Guest Pryal.
Awkward moments? Life can be full of them! Meeting your in-laws, office parties, and around disability too. If you’ve ever felt awkward about talking to someone who’s disabled, don’t worry. You’re not alone, help’s at hand.
It’s time to end the awkward. We can all do it. Keep these five things in mind and you can’t go far wrong. Above all, remember they’re a person – just like you.
- See the person, not just their impairment. He’s Pete who likes pub quizzes and Coen Brothers films, not “that guy in the wheelchair”.
- Try not to make assumptions about what someone can do, how they live or how being disabled affects them. You’d hate it if someone made assumptions without getting to know you, right?
- Unsure or need to know something? Ask! Do it respectfully of course.
- Accept what the disabled person says about themselves and their impairment. Remember they know themselves better than you do.
- Remember not all conditions are visible. Things like epilepsy you can’t see by looking at someone.
See how you can apply these ideas to a load of common situations.
Got an awkward moment not covered here, and want to find out how to handle it? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll do our best to help.
The content in “The basics” was developed with help from several organisations. For more information, please visit our friends at Scope: About Disability.