I’ve heard my whole life that I have a bad attitude. Ain’t that the truth?! Look, you may have seen those videos getting passed around the web by celebrities like William H. Macy that encourage you to just say hi to disable people. Well I have a message to counter that for myself and all the other crips with bad attitudes. Don’t say hi…Just fuck off!
You may think I’m writing this in jest, but I’m halfway serious. Look, I’m sure you’re swell and all that, but people already tell me hi ALL THE TIME. This is no joke. Because I use a wheelchair, most people assume that gives them liberty to not only come up to me and talk to me, usually in a condescending and infantilizing way, but also to touch me. Imagine if every time you went out into the world a curious bystander came up to you, usually after staring at you long enough to make you uncomfortable, and then not only talked to you like they were your preschool teacher, but they also thought that it would be OK to put their hand on your arm or touch your head to pat it as though you were a dog. People do this to me all the time…people I don’t know.
I’m every guy’s buddy or pal. I’m every gal’s sweetie or honey. Usually that’s accompanied by the person saying something patronizing like mentioning how it inspires them when I come out into the world, or they ask me how I’m doing and tell me to enjoy whatever I’m doing no matter how mundane it is. I’m sure you’re a great person, but I have places to go. I’m not always in a great mood. I have good days and bad days, and days where I want to be left alone, but none of that matters to you so long as you get to say something to me to remind yourself and everyone else in the world what a great human being you are!
Having a disability takes away most people’s access to privacy. The world truly has little concern for what is going on in our lives as disabled people. Instead there is this innate curiosity about us, which makes it impossible for most people to not say something. What’s even worse is when these people don’t even talk to those of us with disabilities. Instead, they talk over us, usually to able-bodied companions, even if we are right there listening to you talk about us, as though we cannot comprehend what you are saying. Newsflash…we can and we most likely think you are a dick!
Whether you talk to us or to our companions, you need to consider how we feel about the experience before engaging us in conversation. I’m sure you have days where you’d love to be left alone, but those of us in the disability community often don’t have that freedom, to deal with emotions, our lives, our losses and failures in private. Heaven forbid we respond rudely or ask to be left alone. The onus of our attitude is placed squarely upon our shoulders, and we are deemed rude, uncooperative, and unfriendly. That’s when the real anger comes out from those of you trying to engage with us, and most likely the horrific name-calling.
It should be noted that I respond with an overwhelming sense of kindness in most of these situations. I respond to questions. I put on a smile. You would never know that I would want to punch you in the face (I jest.. It’s not like I can lift my arms anyway LOL). I go out of my way to make your day, by answering you, even when I really don’t want to, nor should I have to.
I am not here for you to be inspired by me. I am not here to make you feel better about yourself. I’m here because I’m a human being just like everyone else. So next time you approach me, or any of my friends with disabilities, don’t say hi, unless you would say hi to everyone else around you. You don’t know what I’m going through, where I’m going, or even if I want to talk to you. If you wouldn’t say hi to a non-disabled person, don’t say hi to me. Instead, just fuck off, because frankly that’s the way the majority of people would act around anyone else.