Last updated: August 2023
We asked our Health Leaders who live with spinal muscular atrophy: "What needs to make it into an 'accessibility etiquette' guide? What drives you crazy about the way people interact with you as someone with a disability?" Here's a look at their replies.
Cashiers, talk to ME
"If I could add one thing to an 'accessibility etiquette,' guide it would be to talk to the person with the disability when they are checking out even if they are with someone else. I can’t tell you how many times I have been checking out at different places like a store or a restaurant, and the employee will not talk to me or acknowledge me even as the paying individual. They will be questioning or thanking whoever is with me when the interaction has nothing to do with them. It’s important to know that disabled people are capable in this particular situation. If there are aspects that they can’t handle, they will be able to communicate that or obtain help from the person they are with."
I'm an adult – talk to me that way
"It annoys me the most when I was told, 'Poor you, you’re still young yet you are already using a wheelchair.' Seriously, don't they know age doesn’t matter when it comes to wheelchairs?
I would also appreciate it if people speak directly with me instead of asking people besides me. What makes you think I cannot understand what you’re talking about? Ask questions or comments directly to us. It would be wonderful if you could also adjust your eye level and posture while talking. In that way, I don’t have to look up to you.
Also, adults with disabilities are adults. We deserve to be treated and spoken to as adults. You don’t have to make decisions for us. Do not use baby talk or tell us what to do. You can just provide us with the option same as those without disabilities. Perhaps you can adjust or discuss a few things with us."
Reminding myself that people are awkward, not intentional
"Where do I start? From my perspective, the issue stems from people feeling awkward when interacting with disabled people. While I know that it’s usually not intentional they want to try and break the ice. Unfortunately it ends up being a dumb comment. For instance, 'Hey, no speeding in here,' or 'I broke my leg last year, I know how you feel.'
Human nature is to try and find something relatable to another person. I do this too. Living in the Philadelphia area, sports is my go-to icebreaker. It’s rather easy when I see someone wearing a hat or shirt of one of the local sports teams. Sports seems to be an easy icebreaker for me. The great thing about it, it has nothing to do with the physical attributes of the person I’m speaking to. Hopefully, we can keep progressing as a society and look past each other’s physical characteristics."
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