Despite our best intentions, many of us still have misconceptions about people with disabilities. Sometimes, we express empathy and eagerness to help when it's not warranted. Sometimes, we take advantage of their condition, which we should never do.
If you have a friend who is disabled or you happen to encounter a handicapped individual, here are some things they would want you to know.
Don’t call them ‘brave’ for living their lives
It may be surprising for you to know that commending disabled people for going about their days isn't really a good thing. That’s because to them, it sounds patronizing when you tell them they're being brave for getting on with their lives.
People with disabilities just want to be treated like ordinary humans. This means that even if it’s hard to shop for groceries while on a wheelchair, they’re not asking for a medal nor are they asking you to commend them.
And if you have a friend who’s recently been handicapped, don’t make it sound like they won the lottery when their company in Utah told them about the disability benefits they can get. It's their right to get those benefits, not their privilege.
Don’t use their restrooms if you’re not disabled
Maybe you’re dying to use the restroom because you chugged down a slushy a couple of hours ago and it’s begging to come out. But even if there’s a line forming at the restroom, you shouldn’t just go and use the handicapped restroom.
That was built specifically for disabled people. If they see individuals using their restroom, it sends them a harsh message. It implies that the few benefits they have, they can’t even own exclusively because of some people claiming a right to those amenities, too.
Don't make them feel stupid
Disabled people find it annoying when other people try to talk slowly when conversing with them. Unless they're handicapped mentally, you should never talk to them as if they’re slow. In fact, even if they're mentally handicapped, it’s still impolite to act that way.
If you meet a person with a disability, talk to them like you would talk to any normal person. They will appreciate that more.
Don’t make them feel helpless
Seeing a handicapped person trying to climb up a flight of stairs while using a cane might urge you to lend a hand right away. But, you’d be surprised if they express annoyance. That’s because disabled people don’t want to be seen as helpless individuals.
Just because they’re handicapped, it doesn’t mean they’re weak or helpless. It only means it’s a little difficult for them to navigate through the world compared to able-bodied people. But, it doesn’t mean they’re always begging for your help.
It would be more polite to ask them first if they need assistance. When they say yes, go on and assist them. If they tell you that they’re fine, take their word and move on.
People with disabilities want to be treated just like anyone else with a few considerations, such as the exclusive use of their restroom. So, bear these things in mind whenever you encounter a handicapped individual.