“Were you in the Olympics?”
Just one of the many questions I get asked every time I venture out as a wheelchair user
So here’s the thing: I went out to get some fresh air in my local park and was greeted with that question. I wouldn’t mind if there were a chance I could be. The question above is one example of when people unintentionally make me feel awkward every time I go out, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Surprisingly enough, the answer is NO! For starters, IF I were lucky enough to be the best in my sport, my answer would still be no.
If people are going to assume that all disabled people in jogging bottoms are going to be good at sport, they could at least get the event correct — Paralympics, not Olympics.
I’m not sure why people feel like they have to say such ridiculous things — perhaps through the embarrassment of not knowing what to say. Here is an example of something appropriate to say: “Good afternoon, isn’t it a beautiful day?” That’s what people typically say to strangers, isn’t it?
Another question I get asked and have lost count of the number of times it’s been asked is: “Your arms must be strong, right?” Now, comparatively, to the individual asking the question, I may have more muscular arms than them, but it’s not exactly a fair comparison. Their legs will be stronger than mine because they use theirs, and I don’t use mine. You wouldn’t say to someone walking, “Your legs must be strong”, just because they are walking — so why is it okay to say it about someone’s arms when they are a wheelchair user?
Many things that are said to disabled people are done from a very childlike perspective.
I will often get asked if I need a hand. Rather than waiting for my response, they help anyway. If you’re not going to wait for an answer, why ask?
For the most part, if I’m out on my own, it's because I know I can do whatever I am required to do without assistance. On those few occasions when something unexpected happens, I can ask for help if needed—leading me nicely into my next point. If I say I’m fine and I am polite in my response, don’t give me attitude back. Yep, that’s right; when I decline assistance because I can cope, I’m the one in the wrong. Go…