Guest Blog

What to say or not to say when you meet someone with a Physical Disability

30 Jan 2017 by Carmen

I am going to start the article by stating that not all disabilities are visible. We all know this, but this article is written concerning those of us that have physical differences that bring the weirdest questions and look imaginable to humanity. Everyone is different, this applies to people with disabilities just as much as anyone else, but people do not seem to realize this fact. It seems especially now that because there are individuals who have disabilities that love to tell their story in the public eye, everyone thinks this characteristic applies to everybody he or she may meet that has a physical disability.

The thing is those people are celebrities, and they are motivational speakers they took something tragic and made something positive out of it in the public eye. They are comfortable sharing their story; I am not. People always want to know “what happened” this is not a story I want to tell while I am having a great day running errands. I do not want to relive my accident over and over and over again to satisfy everyone and their cousin’s curiosity. It is incredibly frustrating to be made to relive one of the worst days of my life so that someone can run home with a new story to tell.

This article is not to gripe but to only say, please be considerate. I am currently teaching my 9-year-old daughter how to tell people that her hearing aid helps her hear politely and that is all she wants to discuss right now. People have told me that I am wrong for this that it is her responsibility to educate the public, but that would be a mistake. She is a 9-year-old girl that loves to read, watch YouTube and tell me that she is almost a teenager, she has no interest in the inner workings of her ear. If she ever goes to medical school to be an ear doctor, then it will be her responsibility to tell the world about hearing disabilities. However, as her now, it is only her responsibility to be a 9-year-old girl, just as it is my duty to be a good wife, a good mom, a good student, a good teacher, and everything else that defines me.

The chair I use is not something that represents the people that use them.

I know there are many well-meaning people out there that only want to learn about a different culture and that curiosity is a powerful motivator, but please try to refrain from asking because you never know when you are the 5th person to ask the woman in a wheelchair to relive the day she lost her best friend to a drunk driver, or was shot by an abusive boyfriend, or survived a failed suicide attempt.

The stories are endless and so is the pain they represent. If someone is comfortable telling you his or her story, then be honored that he or she wants to relinquish that part of his or her identity to you. However, also remember, that many people are like me where we do not wish to give that part of ourselves away, and we do not owe it to the general public to be advocates or inspirational to people.

Carmen is a graduate writing tutor at Liberty University where she also attends school gaining her Educational Specialist degree in Leadership and Administration.  She currently holds a Masters of Teaching from Liberty University.  Carmen enjoys spending time with her family.  She is married to her best friend of ten years, and they have two beautiful children together, Kendall who is 9 and Jacob who is 7.  Carmen is a staunch supporter for employing people with disabilities in the education field gain representation for the Special Education population just as any other demographic.  She believes that this community would benefit from role models in the education field.  She has paraplegia due to a surgical complication in her childhood. To read more from Carmen visit her blog