I won an award

I stopped answering certain questions a long time ago. I get some repeated ones, some rude and some that are just none of your business. They often come from a stranger, when I’m with a client and/or friend who has a disability. What I don’t understand is, what difference would me answering you make to your life? It feels as if it would only be you knowing something about someone you don’t know, that tells you nothing about who the person is.

Here are some choice questions (from adults):

-What’s wrong with them?

-Why do they need that?

-Do they have Autism?

-What is their savant?

-Can they understand?

-If we’re in a restaurant. Do you want me to bring your food later (assuming I’m feeding my friend)?

And one if my favourites

-What do they have??? 👀👀👀👀

Really?!

When out with friends that I don’t provide any paid support to, it is very embarrassing for them. The assumption that all didabled people go places with a friend so they can help them. People ask me instead of them, which is also rude. It’s something they constantly fight with. And, truly appreciate when people recognize it and do better.

When with a client/friend, wether I am getting paid or not, it is incredibly frustrating. I used to be rude and say “none if your business” and quickly dismiss people. I then used the confidential road, hoping it would shut people down. It didn’t. So, I’d just revert back to “it’s none of your business”. About 20yrs ago, I decided to have discussions with each person. Find out what they’d like and how I should answer. Everyone was different and most took glee in that I was rude or, didn’t spend much time on the person. A few said I’d like to tell the person, and have a further conversation to engage them and show them my disability isn’t all I am. For the ones that didn’t want to say, I’d politely say “we don’t answer that question”.

I’m now in a very different role than ever before. This morning I had a fun conversation with a stranger, that made me reminisce the old times.

Waiting for wheeltrans to arrive, so my friend (let’s call her Jill) can head out for the day.

Stranger: “HI!”

Me: “Hello” Go back to chatting with Jill

Stranger: “HI JILL. HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HEADING OUT FOR AN OUTING TODAY? GOING TO SCHOOL? Does she understand?” (Yes the caps are because of how loud she was shouting)

Jill: Looks at her with a straight face. Looks at me, reaches up and smiles.

Me: “She goes out everyday. Yes she can hear you and understands. We’re having a good morning. Jill, yes, no?”

Jill: Claps and smiles for yes

Stranger: Turns away, but is watching us out of the corner of her eye. Flips around dramatically “What does she have?”

Me: “We don’t answer that question. She is very happy and likes going out”

Stranger: “She is your charge?! You must know?!”

Me: “I do. You don’t need to. Feel free to ask other questions and I’m sure she’d be happy to chat.”

Stranger: “Jill should have someone who would want to share things about her.”

Me: “I’d be happy to share other things that are respectful to her and who she is. Her disability is not something you need to know.”

Stranger: “YOU ARE THE RUDEST GIRL EVER!”

Thats it. Thats the award I won. Being the rudest girl ever. She left after that. Honestly, I went back to chatting with Jill and gave this person not a second thought…until now. The idea that I’m rude for not telling you personal information about another?! We’ve really screwed up as humans. Things need to be ‘normal’ and someone’s disability makes them no different, doesn’t make them my ‘charge’ and doesn’t mean they do or don’t need me. This doesn’t come from just school integration, inspirational talks and inclusion. Those things may make someone tolerant, but not always fully open minded as everyone sees those things differently. There needs to also be a refusal to name someone’s disability to explain who they are, why they did something or how they’re doing the thing they do. Or, a precedent to alwas speak respectfully and honestly about your relationship with the person who has a disability. Lead my example. That’s what I try to do. Unless I don’t need to, and they lead themselves!