Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Disability Rights

Stupid Shit People Say to People in Wheelchairs

Riding on public transportation always makes me remember how dumb people are. They say some of the craziest things imaginable. Really, people in general say really dumb things to people in wheelchairs. I am going to try to list some of the most recent, stupid things that have been said to me.

Saying you know what it’s like to be in a wheelchair because you had the chicken pox when you were four, and you were stuck in bed for two weeks is just dumb. Unless you have been in a wheelchair for any extended period of time you have no idea what it is like to be in a wheelchair. Likewise, breaking your leg and being in a wheelchair is drastically different than being in a wheelchair full-time. You cannot compare the two, so just shut up.

Saying you understand what it’s like to be in a wheelchair because your sister, mother, brother, dad, cousin, in-law, or dog is in a wheelchair is also dumb. You don’t have any idea what they’re going through anymore than you have any idea what I’m going through. It’s best just to not say anything. Comparisons really get you nowhere. They just make you look ignorant and I will laugh at you. Not behind your back, but to your face.

Calling me speed racer, pretending to honk a horn, telling me to slow down because I’m going over the speed limit when I can only go eight miles per hour, and any other stupid thing relating to vehicles is just dumb. You’re not a special flower who has come up with this for the first time on your own. I can pretty much guarantee whatever you have to say, we have heard it all before and it makes us want to punch you in the face, for repeating it.

Asking how we “do it” is pretty stupid. I often respond by saying, ‘very well, thank you’. Yes, we can, we will, and it will rock. That’s all you really need to know.

Asking if I know Bill in Tallahassee because he’s in a wheelchair makes you look like an idiot. It would be the equivalent of me asking if you know Jim in Nebraska because like you he’s also a Caucasian (insert other race if you are not white). While I do happen to know many people in wheelchairs and we do have a club thanks to the Internet I don’t know everyone in a wheelchair, so don’t assume I do.

Saying, “car accident” or any other type of accident because you just have to know why I cannot walk is a dumb way to broach the subject. I have more respect if you just say, “so why are you in a chair?” Really, why doesn’t matter, but I have nothing to hide. Guessing why just makes me want to run your feet over the next time I pass you by, especially since a car accident implies I once was “normal”, so I couldn’t possibly have been born this way. If I was, I wouldn’t want to be, right?

Saying anything that involves the word ‘poor’ in relation to a person in a wheelchair is a faux pas. No ‘you poor dear’ or ‘poor thing’, because frankly, for all you know I could be a total dickhole. I have no doubt some people think I am. I am not poor anything and neither are my friends in wheelchairs. Instead, say, ‘hey dickhole, stop being such an ass!’ I would respect you so much more for that!

Trying to race me is just bound to get you run over. Trying to touch my chair or using it as an armrest, footrest, or kick stool is bound to get you posted on this blog. Sorry, my wheelchair is an extension of me. If you wouldn’t lean on someone’s shoulders, kick their shins, or use their calves as a footrest, don’t do it to my chair!

Oh, and just for the record, we are not inspirations. If we do something truly inspiring like…I don’t know, cure cancer? Then you can say we’re so inspiring. We are not inspiring for finding a way to get out of bed and do mundane every day things! If I had a nickel for every time someone called me an inspiration, I’d be rich.

Really, the goal is to use common sense. Treat me like you would any other person and you won’t look like an idiot! The rules are simple really!

Any questions?!

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  1. Very well put, but you missed my favorite group, the luckies!

    You’re so lucky your feet don’t get tired after a long day.
    I say – no but you wouldn’t want to be my ass by bedtime.
    You’re so lucky you get to park close everywhere.
    I say – only when asshats like you don’t park there.
    You’re so lucky you get to stay home all day and watch TV.
    I say – and I get to live in poverty forever!

  2. When I was out pushing my sis in her travel chair, I was more amazed by people’s physical rudeness than what they said. They would let me struggle, trying to open doors and push her in, rather than to just lend a hand. Sometimes I’d be holding the door and scooting us in and they would squeeze in right in front of us.

    Other times, they would lean right over her, in her space, like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon above her head. Or they would stand right in front of her blocking the path, their butts at her eye level, though they knew she was there.

    The most infuriating was going to a sales fair for adaptive equipment, and having salespeople (men, usually) totally ignore her and talk to her husband and me. WE don’t need a new chair, we don’t need an adapted van – SHE is the customer, so why don’t you talk to her? We schooled a few of them on this point.

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Dominick is a director/filmmaker, activist, writer, advocate, FTM transman from the Midwest who lives in New York. Follow his film career and join his weekly Twitter chat on film and disability by following #FilmDis. He received his BFA in Film Production in 2014.