Thoughts on noticing disability experiences


saturniidaenightfever replied to your post“Anonymous asked realsocialskills: I’m physically disabled, and it…”
As an able bodied person, I am never certain when/if it’s appropriate to bring it up. I don’t want to belittle disabled persons, but I…

disabilitythinking said:

This is SUCH a great list. I mean it. There’s a complete disability etiquette seminar in there, and much better than the usual boilerplate and rather obvious stuff that usually passes for disability etiquette / awareness content.

I’d like to add an item …

Just as a surprising change of pace, if you want to connect with a disabled person, instead of asking about their disability, ask them whether they often experience barriers or discrimination. For most disabled people, the subject of their actual disability and how they become disabled is boring old news. What continues to engage us every day are the barriers and discrimination we face, and talking about them is kind of taboo on us, because we don’t want to be seen as complainers. Inviting us to vent can be most welcomed, and at the same time will give you a glimpse into what life with a disability is like.

Be prepared to listen though. Don’t invite the conversation only so you can engage in some kind of “devils advocate” debate, or to expound your theory that accessibility is a waste of money, or that there are too many handicapped parking spaces.

realsocialskills said:

Yes, this.

Also, keep in mind that if you really listen to disabled people about discrimination, you’re going to come to realize that you’ve done things that hurt disabled people. You’re also going to find out about awful things people you like and respect have done to your disabled friends and coworkers.

This might be hard to hear. You might have trouble believing that someone who is otherwise wonderful could possibly be the kind of person who would do things your disabled friend tells you about. You might be tempted to try to smooth things over, tell your friend what a great guy they are, or try to convince them that it wasn’t a big deal and they meant well.

Don’t do that. People with disabilities really do experience humiliating discrimination on a regular basis from ordinary people, including people who do a lot of good in the world and treat many people well.