The Things People Say!

A banner picture with the text "I'm sorry, did I just roll my eyes out loud?". Is have a small cartoon image of a pair of eyes in the top right hand corner.

March 1st is International Wheelchair day, and December 3rd is International Day of Persons with Disabilities (#IDPD2021). Wow, that’s a mouthful!

You might not know that I’m a wheelchair user and as such, I get a lot of weird things said to me!

So, I wanted to have some fun and show some of the things said to me (Yes, you are allowed to laugh!)….and hope it also helps to raise awareness about how people see disability – and wheelchairs.

Sometimes I want to produce a postcard with the answers on for all the comments, questions and statements I get – but there wouldn’t be enough space!

But I don’t have room to put all of them on here either! So, here is a smattering of them

The ones people say a gazillion times, thinking they’re original:

  • Do you have a licence for that thing?
  • Have you passed your test in that? (Actually – yes!)
  • Don’t break the speed limit! 
  • Not bad driving for a woman. 
  • Referring to my hubby – can you tie a skateboard to the back for him? (Can I tie you to the back by the ankle?)
  • Can I have a go? (No you can’t!)

And the ‘you didn’t think about that before you said it, did you?!’ Section:

  • You’re too young and pretty to be in that wheelchair (you mean all female wheelchair users are all old hags??)
  • On the train – Can passengers remove luggage from the wheelchair area, we have a wheelchair onboard. (Wheelchair is a noun, I am a person and wheelchairs don’t drive themselves!).
  • You stood up, you must be faking it. (Most wheelchair users can walk a bit or stand)
  • Well done! (I went to the loo)
  • You’re so inspirational! (I crossed the road)

Then there’s the invasive curiosity (from complete strangers):

  • What did you do?
  • What’s wrong with you?
  • Why do you need that? (Said waving a hand at my wheelchair).
  • What? You’re married? How does that work? (I’ll leave you to work out the question that normally comes next)

I also have people who apparently know my disability better than me, give advice or tell me about my disability – often misinformation:

  • You need to exercise more – people like you don’t and then they end up getting really fat.
  • You’re too happy to have that…. (Said by a GP for goodness sake!)
  • Other people don’t need a wheelchair for ‘that’ – you must have just given up (the ‘that’ being referred to is a spectrum and is also complicated by another condition)

I get the weird and wonderful advice givers too, and most have a ‘friend of a second cousin twice removed who had that’ (or not even similar!)

  • Have you tried cutting out sugar?
  • Have you tried cutting out artificial sweetener?
  • What about yoga/pilates ?
  • You need more kale (I love kale…….it hasn’t worked)

I also get a lot of quack miracle cures forwarded to me by email and on social media. (Please don’t!)

The Christian community has its own brand of stupid when it comes to disability comments.
Here’s the common ones:

  • You need to pray more.
  • You need more faith.
  • You’ve not forgiven someone.
  • You have some unforgiven sins.
  • This is not God’s plan for your life.
  • This is God’s will for your life.

Those last two – so which is it?! (No need to answer that…)

Here’s some regular conversations that happen:

Person: Can I pray for your legs
Me: No
Person: But God can heal you!
Me: He already has.
Person: *Goldfish like movements of the mouth*

Person: Your illness is due to a generational curse.
Me: would that be my birth family, my foster family or my adoptive family?
Person: stunned silence
(For the record – this is REALLY bad theology!)

3. At a Christian festival
Me: Could you open the door for me please?
Person: There’s a leadership team meeting in there, so I can’t.
Me: I know, and I’m late, could you let me in please.
Person: *Looks me up and down* But it’s only for the leadership team
Me: (I’m wearing a leadership team badge). I’m  part of the leadership team.
Person: Shakes head in disbelief.
Steward spots the problem and comes to my rescue…and lets me in.

4. At another festival where I’m speaking:
Me: *Arrives at the venue early to set up*
Person: Sorry, I can’t let you in, the speaker isn’t here yet.
Me: (smiling) I am the speaker.
Person: A moment of stunned silence and inactivity whilst staring at me.
Me: Can I go in and set up please?
Person: Finally lets me in.

And some of the regular actions:

  • Laying hands on me, without permission, to pray. (Both my conditions give severe pain, touch me in the wrong place on a bad day and you might not get the reaction you were expecting.)
  • Stroking my arm whilst speaking with me (See above)
  • The pitiful head tilt with ‘you’re so braaaave!’

These are just some of my stories – others will have different stories….but along the same themes!

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