First I will start with the “What NOT to say”….some of these things are from experiences my friends have had. Just think If you wouldn’t ask/say it of a abled bodied person….DON’T ASK US!!
“You don’t look Autistic” Ok so what does Autistic look like? My friend Elijah* put it nicely once when we were talking “Once you have met one Autistic person, you have met one Autistic person”, another words, with any condition, everyone is different.
“If that was my child….” Yeah well fortunately for her/him, they aren’t! I have had the unfortunate experience of hearing this comment and luckily for the old lady, she did not realise that my friend in the seat next to her at the hairdressers, was the mother of said child. Let me tell you, this comment is harmful as usually the child it is aimed at, is having a meltdown (and can we please STOP calling tantrums, meltdowns..they are NOT the same!!), the parent/guardian is already stressed out from seeing their child/charge in pain from sensory overload, what would be more helpful would be a “is there anything I can do?”, “are you OK?” and “would you like me to get you anything?”.. Trust me, not only will this help the child, but the parent/guardian will be able to be less stressed.
“you must be faking it” The amount of times I read or hear this being said about the blind community is sickening! No we are NOT faking it, we have Ophthalmology records to prove it..no you may not ask to see them! There is another community that hears this comment quite often to, and that is the those with chronic pain or Fibromyalgia..again we are NOT faking it! Why would we want to “pretend” to be in constant pain, or to be blind? Because of this accusation, a campaign started by blind people around the world, has gone viral after a post was seen with a photo of a blind woman who was walking with her white cane and holding her phone, it was captioned “when you see it, press like”..we wanted to educate people on the advantage of technology for blind and vision impaired people, so we took photos of ourselves with our canes and using our phones with the hashtag #BlindPeopleUsePhones!.
“How do you have sex?” Yes wheelchair users get asked this frequently and really, it is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!
“You can hear me fine” I get this one ALOT! Usually you and I are the only ones in the room, usually you are facing me and only ONE person is talking at a time. You have obviously never seen me in a situation where it is noisy, too many people are talking at once and are not looking at me, or the person is trying to get my attention from a distance/another room….
Now for the what NOT to do, take note because these things are pet peeves to many of us!
Lean on a persons wheelchair: Yeah nah, our chairs are given to us to get around, not to prop you up because you’re tired!
Grab the handles of the chair: Again no, just NO..whether you want to get past us, or “help” us, just ASK, we can talk (and even those who are non verbal, will be able to communicate) and seriously the next person who does it to me without permission..better be prepared for a good feel-up, see how they like it!
Talk to us like we are not all there: Yees Ii caan underrsstaand yoou, you do NOT need to talk to me slowly..not only is it highly annoying, it makes YOU look like an ass.
Act like we are aliens: This goes with the one above..the amount of times I go into a shop on my own, and the assistants freak out like they have never seen a person in a wheelchair before, and you can see they are looking for my Support worker to “talk” for me
Talk to my Support worker, instead of me: Unless I have specially requested them to do so, I do the talking!! This goes with the last two as quite often I will go into a shop with a Support Worker and they will get “What would he like?”..HELLO I am right here! My Support worker loves seeing the reactions on the shop persons face when they say “we don’t know, ask him” (one friend added “he CAN talk, you know?”).
Please send me a comment if I have missed anything.