There is no need to make things awkward

In a previous column, I briefly mentioned that people are often awkward around people with disabilities.

This week, I’ll be looking at just some of the things that people have said and done that were very awkward. I hope that this will give some of my readers an idea of what not to do when they come across a person with a disability.

Before I begin, I want to mention that I LOVE meeting new people. Often, I’ll be out somewhere, and someone will recognize me. It could be a reader of one of my columns, or they’ve seen me on TV, social media, or just around town. Meeting new people is one of my favourite things that happens in my life. It reminds me that I’m having an impact on people’s lives.

With that said, let’s get to the topic at hand.

Let’s start with a big one.

As I’ve mentioned before, almost everywhere I go, I get others staring at me. I get it. My wheelchair’s pretty big, has wires and makes loud noise. Quite clearly, I stand out. Let me ask you something, though.

Why are you staring? Another question, why are you making it so obvious?

More questions…

Are you genuinely curious? Are you staring because you have negative thoughts towards others that look “different”?

I’ve been physically disabled for my whole life, which is almost 46 years. On the one hand, I’m very used to it. Sadly, it’s always been a part of my life. At this point, I sometimes have fun with it.

But what if the person you’re staring at is a child with a disability or a person who’s newly disabled?

They’re probably not used to being stared at, and you’re probably making them very uncomfortable and perhaps even self-conscious, which among other things, can lead to mental health issues for them.

The next time you’re staring at anyone, please ask yourself two questions.

Why are you staring at them?

How would YOU feel if YOU were the one getting stared at?

Another huge thing for me is people telling me that I’m inspiring or an inspiration. This one’s tough for me. For some, that would be a compliment, but I know that I’m not alone in feeling the way that I do.

To me, the moment you think that I’m inspiring becomes the moment that you’re choosing to separate me from everyone else. You’re putting me and other PWD on another level. I feel safe in saying that most, if not all, PWD, wants to be treated like everyone else.

With that said, though, I CAN understand some instances why my life could be considered inspiring to some people.

For example….

This morning, I woke up, had coffee, put on some tunes, and started writing this column. When you factor in that the doctors only gave me a year to live when I was born, that could be considered inspiring to some people.

But not to me.

To me, it’s just part of my life.

I just live my life and do what I need to do.

Eventually, I’ll need to buy household supplies at Walmart or Costco, and so will you. It’s part of your life, and it’s also part of mine.

One more big one that I need to include are religious people.

First of all, let me say that I have no problem with people who believe in what they choose to believe. I certainly disagree with certain aspects of it, but I’ll leave that for others to discuss.

I bring this up because there have been several times where I’ve been approached in public by someone wanting to pray for me right there on the spot, and sometimes have me pray with them.

I’ve had this happen on OC Transpo buses, malls, inside stores, a public bathroom, and elsewhere.

I appreciate the gesture, but it can be quite embarrassing and considered harassment or violating my personal space, especially if they decide to hold my hand.

If you insist on praying for me, I’d appreciate it if you did it in private or at your place of worship.

Again, this is just my experience and opinion about it.

Some of you may be asking, what are some of the positive things you can do when you come across a person with a disability?

Short answer.

Treat us how you’d treat anyone else. I don’t understand why some people choose to treat us differently just because we may look different or use a mobility device.

People with disabilities are humans as well. I realize that I may sound like a broken record. As long as there are people out there who choose to see us differently, I will always do my best to change others’ perceptions.

I’ll be back next week.

Stay safe

Photo: iStock