You Had Me at "Hello:" Conversation Etiquette for Talking with the Disabled
People ask me all the time how they should start a conversation with disabled people, but I'm here to break it to you, there is no secret. We are people first, so start there. Find out more about disability on my website crutchesandspice.com
- •Start with "Hi"You may think you sound "hip" and "down with disability" when you start a conversation with a disabled person with "And what's wrong with you," but it makes you sound like an ass.
- •Don't make assumptions.Don't think that because a person walks with crutches, that they have hearing problems too. You would think that I don't encounter this, but many people shout at me thinking I can't hear because of the way I walk. With that being said, if you encounter a deaf person, enunciate your words so they can read your lips.
- •Look me in the eyes.A lot of people stare at me, but fail to look me in the eyes. Nothing disarms me more than when someone makes the effort to actually see me. I won't be any less sarcastic, but far less of it will be at your expense.
- •Please don't grab at me.I don't know what makes people want to grab at my crutches, but if you take me down, I'm taking you with me. If you want to help, ask first, and be respectful if I decline.
- •Don't tell me I inspire you.This one may be controversial, but in the first few moments that we meet, hold off on this. I immediately shut down when I hear this in the first moments of meeting someone. People who tell me I inspire them always seem to be temporary and more interested in feeling good in than instant than getting to know me. Many disabled actually consider this a microagression.
- •Be patient without condescension or being patronizingDisabled people are hyper-aware of what makes us different, whether that be stuttering, walking slower, or talking slower. I, for instance, cannot walk and talk, so be prepared to stop often because I'm chatty. I can also tell when people are becoming annoyed, so try and be genuine when we apologize for accidentally holding you back.
- •See us as moreIn the U.S. There are 50 million people with disabilities. We are employees and employers, mothers and fathers, friends (with and without benefits 😜), athletes, creatives and philosophers. We are a part of every race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and political leaning. You won't know your future with us, so get to know who we are and go with the flow.