We’ve all heard of this infamous phrase. It relates to the way some people talk to the person standing next to or behind the wheelchair, and not to the person with the disability. It’s happened to me on many occasions, and I can tell you, it is very annoying!
I travel by public transport quite a lot and the number of times people ask questions of my support and not me directly drives me up the wall! My support will always direct them to ask me, usually with subtlety, where as I just want to shout “I’m sitting here, not standing behind the chair!” It can be so frustrating and demeaning.
Let me give you an example. Some years ago I knew a lady called Stephanie, a very intelligent teacher who was suffering from advanced Multiple Sclerosis. She was shopping for jewellery with the assistance of a support worker to push the wheelchair, and had gone in to an Arts and Crafts shop. After looking around for some time, she found a pair of earrings she liked and took them over to the counter. The support placed them on the counter whilst Stephanie was getting out the money. The assistant then, unbelievably, asked the support “Does she have pierced ears?” without missing a beat Steph leaned back and said “Yes, she (bad word removed) Well does!” . Needless to say, the shop assistant was duly embarrassed and apologetic.
The awful thing is, this is not an isolated incident. It happens on an almost daily basis to most people with disabilities. What then is the answer? Personally, I feel it’s about educating people about the fact we are all equal and getting out there to make sure that people understand about disability. What we must not do, however, is accept it. If it happens to you, tell them! You don’t have to make a big thing of it, but you should make your feelings known.