The Dos and Don’ts of Talking to Disabled People

Upon first glance, people don’t often know that I have a disability. I “look” normal. A closer glance would reveal the odd quirks and features of my body. The way my arms and legs curve, the scars scattered across my limbs like broken roadways of a surgerical map, the bone growths, and my “shocking” toes.

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I hid the parts of me that were different for years, and I mean years. To this day, I still struggle with revealing these parts of me. I’ve learned to accept and even love myself, I’ve learned that I am beautiful and my disability does not define me…but that doesn’t stop the reactions my disability can and does have from strangers and people I am acquainted to from hurting me, scarring me deeper than the wounds left upon my actual flesh.

But I grew tired of hiding behind layers in the hot summer. I wanted to wear skirts and dresses and flip flops. I wanted to not swelter every time I went outside. But I feared the reaction my classmates would have. When I graduated high school, I honestly thought I didn’t need to hide anymore.

Only…the reactions haven’t stopped, and I’ve only very recently started speaking up against the ignorance that follows the not-at-all harmless question of “What’s wrong with your [toes/legs/whatever body part]”.

I used to tell myself, they’re just curious. They’re not meaning to be cruel or make me feel bad, only I’m realizing that’s total and complete bullshit. I’m realizing that I don’t owe anybody an explanation for why my body is the way it is. Being asked for one any time I wear outfits the reveal my legs and toes is rude.

I have a disability, but strangers do not have the right to ask me about it and put me on the spot. It’s rude. Curious as you are, I highly doubt you’d go up to someone in a wheelchair and ask them but why? Why are you in a wheelchair?

Do you know why you wouldn’t? Because it’s rude. And you know that they’re in the wheelchair because of a disability. And you know, to a degree, that if this person wanted to share with you why they are in a wheelchair, they would. Asking them isn’t polite and I’m tired of having to explain myself to total strangers.

I wore a dress yesterday, and flip flops. Of course, I was self-concious…I always am. But I wore it any way because it was warm and I kinda felt pretty and feminine.

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I got to the bus stop. I was talking to my friend about how excited I was to get a pedicure. A woman at the bus stop, whom I see every day, looked down at my toes and exclaimed “Woah!”.

I looked at her and said, “woah what?”

She stumbled for a minute, then suggested I go to a place in town. I told her I was going somewhere else and tired to ignore the fact that she kept staring at my legs and feet.

In the afternoon, at pick up, she bluntly said, “can I ask why you have all those scars?”

I clenched my teeth, because it irritates me to answer this question. Every time I feel forced, put on the spot. It’s difficult to accept the fact that I cannot go anywhere wearing a sundress without giving at least one “curious” person an explanation, but I told her.

That was that. Or so I thought…until this afternoon. I was wearing flip flops and shorts and talking to the two ladies at the bus stop, one being my friend and the other being the same one who questioned me yesterday. The one who questioned me yesterday looked down at my feet again and started laughing.

“Oh my god! Your toes!” She laughed, as if it was a hilarious joke.

“Excuse me?” I said, seething with anger and embarrassment. “That’s incredibly rude.”

She laughed again, and said “I’m sorry but…they’re just so weird looking. Were you like born that way?”

By this point, I seriously wanted to clock her. “Yes I was, and you are being incredible rude.”

I couldn’t believe it. It was worse than my usual encounters with “curious” strangers.

I know that this particular person is rude and cruel, but it still doesn’t make it any easier to go through.

You know what’s kind of ridiculous? I experience more shit from females about my physical differences and quirks than I do males. For every 1 male that questions me about my toes or legs or scars, there are literally 6 females demanding an explanation like they’re owed it, or putting me down.

So if you’re one of those people who think that they’re owed an explanation from someone they hardly know about their disability, you need to check yourself before I pop ya one in the nose.

I don’t mind sharing my story, on my own terms. I don’t owe anybody an explanation and I’m no longer going to answer strangers prying questions. Especially if they’re doing it to be cruel, like this woman obviously was.

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About J.C. Hannigan

25. Mother. Wife. Lover of words. Weaver of stories. My first book, Collide, is available in e-book for Amazon Kindle and Kobo.
This entry was posted in bits and pieces, blogging, happenings, honesty, hurt, insecurities, MHE, moody, musings, pain, personal, rants, raw truths, raw writings, tough stuff, um what?, updates, words, writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Dos and Don’ts of Talking to Disabled People

  1. WTF***!! People are assholes. Gah, if I had been there, I would’ve punched the b**** for you! And I am not a violent person. ARGH!

    You go, lady! You have no need to apologize for any part of your body. You are gorgeous!!!

    F*** the assholes!

  2. Reblogged this on Boo's & Ooo's and commented:
    This s*** right here is BS! Freakin’ BS! This lady is beautiful! And there is no way she should have to apologize for the way she looks! No one should!

    I won’t apologize for being crossed eye, well-endowed, saggy gutted, previous overweight, or anything else! We are all made different for a reason so f*** the a*****es who think differently! ARGH!!!

  3. Good for you for telling these people that they are being rude! They have no right to know why you have scars!

  4. alm383 says:

    الجمال جمال النفس وحسن الخلق

  5. Gerry says:

    I can relate so damn much to your story. I have a lazy eye. Growing up was a nightmare with the bullies and what have you. Even supposed friends would make jokes at times. Add being chubby and totally non athletic to that and it was hell at times. And like you I figured after high school it would stop, but no. I stopped being self conscious about it a long time ago, but in gotta tell you, even at 40, once in a while I’ll notice someone look over their shoulder when I’m talking to them, unsure what I’m looking at, and I feel, briefly, like I’m 12 again. In a bad way. But what I’ve learned is that everybody is self conscious about something. So, don’t sweat the idiots too much. They’re likely compensating in the only way they know. But it is shocking that a grown woman would just laugh at you like that. To hell with her.

  6. kthorpe says:

    What. A. Terrible. Person. Honestly at a loss for words but just wanted to point out that you are a gorgeous woman and you should wear pretty dresses whenever you want! Sandals too. Sry you have to deal with idiots though… But hey, at least you aren’t one of them!

  7. Tierney says:

    I’m actually so surprised. I have a number of highly visible scars (it doesn’t help that I’m prone to keloids, which make them that much more visible), and I’ve never had an adult react that way. Matter of fact, my entire wardrobe consists of backless and thin strapped dresses (it’s hot around here!) and those show my scars the most! I have, on the other hand had kids ask to touch the scars and one in particular say “why are you showing your scar” when wearing a certain dress. These kids don’t know better so I just explain that it’s a part of my body, just like how she has brown hair, and she doesn’t hide that so why should I hide this?

    I can’t believe people are so rude. I would not be speaking with that women anymore and leave it at “I hope your children don’t grow up to be as judgemental as you”. Maybe putting it in a different perspective would have her reconsider her actions?

    Anyways, hugs to you. That flat out sucks!

  8. I am speechless! That was horrifying behaviour on her part. And for the record — you DO look pretty and feminine in that photo 🙂

  9. cathy says:

    What a bitch! Women are sooo nasty. But it’s more about her own insecurities. I have an autistic grandson. He “looks” normal, but he isn’t and we get double takes all the time and ignorant remarks. People need to engage their brain before opening their mouths. Treat people the way YOU want to be treated is something that is sadly sadly lacking in this world.
    But good on you for telling her she was being rude. Don’t take that shit from anyone!!

  10. Megan says:

    That is so messed up! What a jerk. You looked cute and confident in your picture! Keep on with the sun dresses! Love your blog. We have very similar personalities. Have a good day!

  11. mscat says:

    My cousin was hit by a car as a kid and has some skin deforming scars on one of her legs. She once told me that her favorite thing to do to get people to shut up pretty quickly (and to shame them for asking) is to tell whoever asks that she got shot, nearly killed, and doesn’t want to talk about it.

  12. kariellym says:

    Ugh, that’s awful. I totally agree with you. You are not at all obligated to share your story with rude strangers. Their curiosity is their own problem – and they should learn that it doesn’t give them the right to expect answers to questions like that. You look good in that dress! Don’t let them get to you!

  13. I worked a bridal shower the other day, and the father of the groom randomly came up to me, put his foot next to mine, and loudly commented on how big mine are—in a room full of women. I could have died. I don’t get why people are so rude. I don’t even think this guy meant any harm by it, but it stung. I laughed it off, but man. It’s been a few days and it’s still circulating in my thoughts.

    Big feet run in my mom’s side of my family and, thanks to my dad’s side, I’ve got crooked second toes and hardly any arch. I have ugly feet. I’m learning to accept that. Just when I start to, someone calls me out on them and it breaks me all over again.

    I love you, Jess, and I think you’re gorgeous. I hope you keep wearing dresses. You look hot in them. #girlcrush

  14. almostakiss says:

    Even though I’ve been on the receiving end of similar rude remarks, it NEVER ceases to amaze me what people have the gall to say!! Seriously, telling that woman she was being incredibly rude should have been enough but she keeps up… When I was younger, say your age, I never knew how to answer things that caught me off guard like that. Now I’d say, “Are you trying to make me feel bad?” I think you handle things wonderfully and with so much maturity. I don’t ask when I see people with scars. If I become friends with them, I still don’t ask. I wait for them to bring them up and THEN I’ll feel like there’s an opening to discuss. Hang in there and just think of what weird stuff others have but are covering up. Everybody has something that’s odd or out of the ordinary on them. For some people, it’s their brain… xoxo

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