7 Things People With Disabilities Want You To Know
Stop calling us "brave" or "inspirational", unless we actually are...
Antara Telang talks becoming disabled, and suddenly being treated very differently...
About seven years ago, I was in an accident. It was raining heavily and I was walking home from college when, suddenly, a branch of a tree fell on me. Since that wasn’t enough drama, I also passed out and woke up in a hospital room a while later, surrounded by puzzled doctors and sitting in a pool of my own blood. You see, my right leg had been completely crushed. Shattered. Annihilated. Mutilated… and I had to get it amputated.
Talulah-Eve shares her advice for dealing with online bullying...
For the first 18 years of my life, I had been “normal” – maybe a little too loud for my size, but mostly normal. Now, suddenly, I was “disabled”.
And the variety of reactions I’ve got since – even if they’re well-intentioned – have me ready to pull out my hair. Here’s what some of them are, and some advice on what to say the next time you meet someone who has a disability.
#1: We’re not inspiring
The first thing that people have got to stop doing when they find out that someone is disabled is calling them “brave” or “inspirational”. Come on, you have no idea what anyone around you has gone through. Yes, the disabled person in question HAS gone through a tough time, and it IS hard to live with it every day, but that does not necessarily justify a complete stranger calling them brave.
#2: Patronise restaurants, not people
You don’t need to be SO surprised just because I managed to climb a few steps on my own, or start slow clapping when I tell you that I use public transport every day. Suggestions like “hold my hand, don’t be shy” or “why don’t you just take a cab?” are patronising.
If you offer help to someone who’s disabled, and they turn it down, don’t ask again and again. And if they do take your help, you don’t need to fuss over them. If you make a big deal out of it, chances are, the next time they need help, they’re not going to ask for it.
#3: Don’t be an agony aunt when nobody’s asked you to be
A lot of people have asked me questions like, “Why don’t you go to a college closer to your house?” or “Why do you have to travel so far for work?” Um, for a good education, that I have studied hard for. I want to do it!
Similarly, don’t tell us that we should look for jobs that are work from home. Disabled people love our beds just as much as anyone else. If we’re leaving bed and going somewhere else, trust me, it’s with good reason.
#4: Date, don’t rate
Dating as a person with a disability can be hilarious. Potential lovers ask you questions like, “It’s just one leg that’s missing? The rest is all there right?” and “So… do you keep it on during sex?”
But the funny reactions to dating don’t end with the actual people we’re dating!
“You’ll find it very tough to get married.”
“You have a boyfriend?! He’s also an amputee or what?”
“Does your boyfriend KNOW that you’re an amputee?”
Believe me, my boyfriend has seen a LOT more of my body than just my prosthetic leg. It’s so irritating when people tell us that our disability is something that we have to be ashamed of. It took me many years to realise that it isn’t.
#5: Petition for the government to ban small talk
After regular questions like “how’s the job?” and “how’s your family?” the next question I usually get asked in small talk conversations is “how’s the leg?”
My favourite thing to do at this point is to look at my non-prosthetic leg and be like, “It’s quite high maintenance. It’s in serious need of shaving. And I really must cut my toenails.” I just keep going on in this vein till they’re forced to either give up or admit that the only thing they were asking about was my “fake” leg.
#6: I’m the same person that I was 4 minutes ago
Given that my disability is not a very visible one, there are a lot of people who don’t immediately realise that I have a prosthetic leg. And when they do realise, their behaviour towards me suddenly changes. When earlier they’d run down steps with me, they’ll suddenly say something like, “Oh, of course you’d rather take the escalator!”
See, here’s the thing, I’m just as lazy as the next person. I take escalators because I don’t feel like toning my thighs.
#7: Be creative – we’re not tragedies
Not all responses I’ve got to my prosthetic leg have been bad. One of my friends has drawn me prototypes of an electricity generator leg, a coffee maker leg, and a storage space leg. Another of them exclaimed, a day after my accident, that I’d be able to get half off on pedicures from now onwards.
Yet another has seriously discussed the possibilities of me using it as a weapon against shady men. (It’s made of titanium, so it could do some serious damage.) So all in all, my disability has been a great source of entertainment as well.
I know that if you’re not used to it, being around someone who’s different from you might be a little awkward, and you might end up saying things that sounded better in your head.
But if you DO have to treat me differently from the way you treat other people, let it be because I’ve said something that’s changed your life, or maybe even because you think I’ve wasted the last five minutes of your life.
Our Fave Celebs Fighting To Save The Planet
Getty1 of 8
Getty2 of 8
Getty3 of 8
Getty4 of 8
Getty5 of 8
Getty6 of 8
Getty7 of 8
Getty8 of 8