Disability can be confusing to someone who has never known another person with a Disability (PWD). However, that doesn’t mean you get permission to talk to or about people with disabilities (PWD) as you’d like.
You have no right to ask about how they use the washroom, get in or out of bed, eat, manage their day or make them the butt of your joke because you’re uncomfortable. Then again I know some PWD’s that have fun with this and make their answer droll and sarcastic
We all get uncomfortable sometimes. Usually for every person that’s super comfortable, there’s one or more that are not. Discomfort comes in many forms. I’m sure we could all imagine all the ways or see it from someone else’s point if view.
PWD’s sometimes make hard choices or boundaries around people, because of uncomfortability. The people that know them well may have a hard time accepting it, but also eventually get used to it. On the other hand, PWD’s sometimes have a hard time creating boundaries because of other fears. Fear someone won’t care for them, doesn’t like them, will treat them badly and many other reasons.
A friend of mine who has a disability was chatting with a guy. You know how it goes. The conversation seemed okay until she revealed her disability and he said “oh good, you don’t have to see my ugly face.” He made a joke about her disability, but then also made it self depreciating comment in one. Because of his uncomfortability? Why then? Nervousness is natural. Especially when you’re talking to a hot lady. Ablelism is not hot!
I wonder what would happen if we were all just a little bit more vulnerable with each other? PWD’s often feel vulnerable because they rely on others for care, assistance, etc already. We all just want to be understood. So, why can’t we meet people half way? Or, if you have the capacity, meet them where they are.
This guy didn’t think his self depreciating joke would turn my friend off. He thought, if I make it about me, then she won’t be offended. And in his deep stomach, back of brain he thought “oh shoot, I feel weird. I don’t know what to to say about her disability. Don’t say anything. Oh shoot, you said something. Make it about yourself and put yourself down. Thats funny. Shoot, she’s not laughing. She didn’t think it was funny. Fix it, fix it!” And the person affected (my friend in this case) is ‘taught’ to feel guilty for him in the moment. Laugh at his stupid joke. And fix the situation by switching topics. My friend personally did one out of the three.
Asking questions isn’t illegal. Saying no isn’t illegal. Treating someone like a human isn’t illegal. Treating someone the way you’d want your parents, sibling, best friend or someone else close to you to be treated is the only thing that is acceptable.
NOTE: I do not have a disability. There is no intent to offend or insult PWD’s. This is written on the basis of knowledge I’ve been provided by those who have disabilities.