Etiquette of Addressing a Disabled Person

Posted: 9/6/2021 11:00:03 For those of you who are familiar with my column or are reading it for the first time, I would like to...

Posted: 9/6/2021 11:00:03

For those of you who are familiar with my column or are reading it for the first time, I would like to start this article by touching on something very important; my disability does not define me. In the 22 years that I have been in this world, that has never been the case and never will be.

Now you can watch this phrase and shake your head in disbelief as you think how her disability could not define her when she needs help with everything from using the toilet to sucking up the toilet. excess saliva from his throat several times a day? And you would be partially right in that statement. Yes, my disability limits me physically in many ways, but it also allowed me to focus and expand my other strengths.

It is a conscious decision that I, along with many other people with disabilities, must make on a daily basis, in order to see the good things he has brought into my life instead of ruminating on the things he has brought to me. taken. Because as anyone can imagine the latter is very easy to do and, moreover, it is a story instilled in society for centuries.

And, in my opinion, it is high time that this age-old perception was eradicated.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to redefine the way others perceive disability – and me, as an individual with extremely obvious limitations. And with a bachelor’s degree in not one but two majors under my belt, I’ve been a trailblazer in many ways. But every time I walk into a public place, I am continually reminded of how far people with disabilities are from being treated as equal members of society.

Earlier this summer, I was browsing Twitter one evening when I came across a thread of people with disabilities discussing the ability and, if I’m honest, bordering on debasement, encounters that the majority of us experience. whenever we dare to leave our homes. As I browsed through the multitude of tweets in the thread, there were two types of these cases that were more prevalent than the rest in individuals’ legitimate frustration rants – each of them relating to times when strangers approached them from unintentionally hurtful way. manner, but still in a less than dignified manner.

The first was the most common, according to the common thread: where whenever strangers – or people who do not know the disabled person – speak to a disabled person, it is extremely common for them to speak to their caregiver standing next to the person they are talking to, instead of the person themselves.

The second referred to the habit of people touching people with disabilities, out of pity or sympathy for people like mine.

As I read the tweets, my heart suddenly grew heavy, not only because I deeply sympathized with the individuals, having been in their situation countless times, but because it was the first time I realized how demeaning behavior towards people like me was normalized. became.

Growing up I didn’t have any friends with a visible disability so when people asked my mom about me outside of church or when we went shopping while I was sitting next door of her, I never really thought about it. I attributed the aversion of people to speaking directly to me to my speech impediment and the fact that people who meet me for the first time can rarely understand my speech.

I thought it was just me who got the looks of pity when people pat my hand, or worse my head, when they realize that I can’t move my hand to shake theirs during introductory moments. that always left me wishing I could disappear into the sidewalk beneath me. When I was little, people had even fewer barriers and wanted to touch me all the time; to the point that I put a sign on my wheelchair that said, “Please wash your hands before you touch mine.” Surprisingly, people still haven’t gotten the hint even with the sign.

It wasn’t until my college days, when I started befriending people in similar situations to mine, that I started to realize that it wasn’t about isolated incidents. But I didn’t realize how far these behaviors had carried over into society until I saw this thread on Twitter. And I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the stigmatized perceptions that I believe are at the root of these behaviors.

I’m also a human being and having a disability doesn’t affect my quality of life and pitying looks don’t give me anything except a self-esteem complex. I want to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of my physical limitations; which includes strangers speaking to me directly, instead of being third person, and not patting me like I’m a baby.

If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: The next time you meet a person with a disability in public, remember that they are human, just like you. And before you are tempted to participate in any of the above actions, please take a moment to put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would like to be treated.

Gazette columnist Joanna Buoniconti is a recent graduate of UMass Amherst. She can be reached at

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Newsrust - US Top News: Etiquette of Addressing a Disabled Person
Etiquette of Addressing a Disabled Person
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