Saturday, July 5, 2014

Advice: There Is No Nice Way to Ask Invasive Questions

It is odd [to be asked about your body and personal life] but also why should you be ashamed to explain if it’s asked in a nice way?

It’s not about shame. It’s about able-bodied people feeling entitled to ask invasive questions of disabled people AND expecting your questions to be answered. If we are open to answering questions, and we make that known, then you are more than welcome to ask. But just because I use a wheelchair does not entitle anyone to ask invasive personal questions of me, or give them the right to touch me without my permission.

Fully agreed. Nobody should be touched in a way they’re uncomfortable. However, as the disabled person, you have the ability and decision to decide how to approach situations. Angry or able to put things into perspective. Able to decide when someone is being invasive as opposed to curious. Approach this type of recurring situation with some intelligence and dignity rather than coming across like some sort of angry disabled person. I’m done with this topic.

Absolutely. It’s absolutely my choice. It directly concerns me. And I’ve been dealing with “well-meaning,” “polite” questions my entire life. So, when you want to approach someone, asking them a question in a nice way, keep in mind that you are not the first person. That we have had numerous people asking us, from the time we’re small, “What happened?” “Why are you in a wheelchair?” “Can you walk at all?” Some people are not polite, at all. Some people have hurt us physically, thinking we just aren’t trying hard enough. Some have taken away our mobility aids, held our hands and then tried to let us go, in an effort to get us to walk unassisted, when it is not physically possible for us
When able-bodied people sustain a temporary injury, it’s common to ask what happened. It’s an act of concern. And if you’re friends with a person, and you know they got hurt and will need to use crutches temporarily, for example, I’d say it’s perfectly acceptable to ask after them.
The issue comes when you are approaching people you are not familiar with, number one. You are strangers to us. We don’t know you from the next random person, and explaining our personal history IS invasive. The second thing to keep in mind is that you asking a disabled person “What happened? Why are you in a wheelchair?” for example, feels to US, the same way it would feel to you if a complete stranger approached you on the street, with concern and pity on their faces and asked you, “What happened? Why are you walking?” Wouldn’t that be off-putting? It is to us, too. Because for a lot of us, nothing happened, it’s the way we were born. It’s normal to us. (And if something DID happen later in life, it’s completely our business when or if to disclose or discuss that.) Now imagine that too many strangers to count have approached you with similar sentiments over the years. Imagine that you were asked these kinds of things as a child, by adults.
Does it feel a little violating? Do you think you might have a reason to feel angry, especially if it didn’t just happen once, but over and over?We are people. Human beings. We want to be able to go out in public and not have this happen to us either. We have lives to lead and things to do just like you do. And we want to do the things we have to do without feeling self-conscious or fearful of strangers asking personal questions - even well-meaning questions.
I don’t take issue with you personally, but would really encourage you to educate yourself. Listen to what people with disabilities are saying. We’re not all the same, but I’d bet there are common threads in a lot of our responses to your questions.

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