Disability FAQ: What NOT to Ask And My (Cheeky) Responses

“I get a lot of questions from strangers who think that because my wheelchair puts me at a lower height, the walls surrounding my personal life must be lower too.”

– Kelsey Warren, My Body.

It happens sooner or later to just about everyone who lives with a disability: A complete stranger will say something nosy, awkward, rude or truly offensive.

I’ve compiled a list of twenty six of the most commonly asked questions or ‘compliments’ that I’ve received over the years. With the benefit of hindsight and the time to reflect, I hereby present my clever tongue-in-cheek answers.

Fair Warning Disclaimer: I will be using these responses moving forward. Now I just need to print out this page and keep it on-hand at all times lest I forget how to be witty when put on the spot!

Disability FAQ – What NOT to Ask and My (Cheeky) Responses

1. Whaddya do to your leg? Hi, my name’s Bree, it’s nice to meet you. What’s your name?

2. No seriously, whaddya do to your leg? Ask me, “Where did you get your superhero power from?” Now THAT would be an opening line I would be more inclined to answer!

3. What’s wrong with your legs? What’s wrong with your manners?

4. What’s wrong with you? Nothing. What’s wrong with you?

5. Been in an accident, have you? Nope.

6. Can I ask a really personal question (because even though I just met you we are total BFF’s): If this is pre-screening for a first date the answer is no.

7. Can you have kids? Can you?

8. When are you going to have kids? Who’s to say that I even like kids?

9. How does your partner cope? So my disability is all about him?

10. Your partner must be an amazing person to take you on. Yes he does take me on some wonderful dates, thanks for asking.

11. Really? You don’t seem disabled to me, I mean you can walk, so are you sure? You got me. I’m making it up because I’m bored.

12. Are you sure you’re not faking it? You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do from this point onwards can and will be used against you.

13. But you have a job! Thanks for reminding me that I have to go to work today.

14. But you don’t look sick / in pain! Can you show me what sick / in pain is supposed to look like? I’ll make sure to try to get it right next time.

15. Shouldn’t you just try to take your mind off the pain? If someone stuck a searing hot poker deep into your skin would you be able to take your mind off that?

16. Aren’t you too young to be sick? I was under the impression that anyone, regardless of race, gender, age or geographic location, is at risk of developing and managing a chronic illness. Wow! That’s thrown me for a loop!

17. Aren’t you too young to be in that much pain? Maybe by the time I’m old people will stop saying it.

18. Aren’t you too young to be disabled? I guess all those kids’ wheelchairs I see are for display-only purposes. Huh! You learn something new everyday!

19. Why are you in a wheelchair? I’m feeling particularly lazy today.

20. Why do you have that stick? I’m starting a new fashion trend. Watch this space!

21. How do you stay so fit-looking in a wheelchair? I guess I’m just lucky that way.

22. I want one of those (points to mobility scooter): Great! That’ll be $2500 plus delivery.

23. How can you stand it? I can’t. That’s why I’m sitting down right now.

24. I know just how you feel! I don’t think we are on the same wavelength with this one.

25. I feel sorry for you. We aren’t going to start this sh!t again.

26. Will you ever be normal? Hmmm, probably not. Normal is so overrated. #BeLessWeirdHellsNo!

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favourite tongue-in-cheek answers to unhelpful comments or questions? Please share in the comments below!

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All photos and content the property of Starbrite Warrior and Bree Hogan

33 thoughts on “Disability FAQ: What NOT to Ask And My (Cheeky) Responses”

  1. “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you in a wheelchair?”

    “Tripped over a cat”

    “Oh s***, really??!!!”

    Was a conversation I had last night. I like the “I’m feeling particularly lazy today one” I’m defo going to use that lol

    Great article Bree. I get it all the time too xxx

  2. Attila says:

    A friend of mine once complained about the number of mobility scooters about in a particular town centre. And there I was, trundling along on my scooter. I said, “Of course, in the good old days, disabled people stayed at home and were housebound”. I am still astounded that I managed to think of that one!

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      That was such a great reply Attila! I’m super impressed with your on-the-spot quick thinking. I tend to think of the good stuff well after the event has passed, lol!

      1. Attila says:

        So do I! I’m still amazed I thought of that right away!

        1. Bree Hogan says:

          It was the perfect reply Attila!

  3. Wow. These are some very awkward and rude questions. Do people really ask them Goodness! Just curious, though, what do you think is a good way for someone to ask you about your disability? I have a friend whose son has spina bifida and she encourages people to ask questions because it helps her to be able to spread awareness. But sometimes it can be difficult trying to decide on a way to ask that is not offensive or intrusive.

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      Hi Tiffany, yup people really do ask these questions! Crazy!

      I am more than happy to talk about my disability but it’s all in the approach. It should be the right time and place – e.g. not the elevator (this happens way too much!) – and it should be with genuine interest to know more about me as a person. Not just to make some random off-the-cuff remark. Hope that helps to answer your question. 🙂

  4. As always Bree, totally LOVED this post! Sharing on PiP, I know a lot of folks can definitely relate to this! I loved your responses!

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      Thanks Jennifer! I love PiP and appreciate you sharing it over there!

  5. Jessica says:

    I still can’t believe people say these things!!! I think you should just poke them in the eye whenever they something like this.

  6. Some people can be so tacky at times! Glad you’re able to brush it off!

  7. Gunjan says:

    Thought provoking article. Great one.

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      Thanks Gunjan!

  8. With a son with epilepsy, my least favorite comment is, “You are such a saint!”

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      Yep that would drive me nuts too, Heather!

  9. Helen says:

    Wow. People can be so rude! I love your attitude. Have a great week!

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      Thanks Helen!

  10. michelle says:

    it is shocking to me how untactuful and disrespectful people can be. and complete strangers too! i was asking for prayer recently over a personal surgery and i said i didn’t care to mention what the surgery was for and a stranger came up to me and was like “i have to know what kind of surgery?” i get that it is different but still just shows that people are stupid

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      After you had already said that you didn’t want to disclose what surgery you had? Woah Michelle! That was very disrespectful of that person. It’s none of their business.

  11. Jenny says:

    I get asked plenty of stupid questions because I have 3 kids. And, 3 isn’t even a lot of kids! It’s amazing how rude people can be sometimes.

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      It certainly is Jenny! I’m not sure if it’s because some people get uncomfortable and just don’t know what to say so they blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Or if it’s simply because they are nosy. Maybe a combo of both!

  12. Beth says:

    People can be pretty clueless at times. I know that while I try to be thoughtful and polite, I’ve said a few things out of ignorance or trying to be helpful that I wish I hadn’t said. (None as rude as the things on your list, but it is embarrassing to realize anyhow.) I love your responses.

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      Thanks Beth. 🙂 I don’t think anyone is immune to the odd comment that has come from a place of good intentions but for whatever reason, doesn’t quite come out right. It happens. It’s these other comments that take it to a whole new level as they are just out-and-out intrusive.

  13. Emily says:

    Do people actually ask these questions?! Oh lord 😡 You are so inspiring! Thank you for sharing your journey 🙂

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      Oh yes Emily, they really do! Xx

  14. Bree as a normal person… I can let you know no one is “normal.” Some of these questions are so rude. It’s like some of the question i got growing up black in a mostly white school. “Your hair is short, does the hair on your legs grow like normal?” Yes, that happened. I love that you can kind of make a joke out of all this stuff because no matter what some people will just ask dumb questions.

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      Exactly Dia, dumb and rude questions will always be asked, it’s just the way of the world.

      I would say that I can’t believe that you were asked questions like that in school…but having seen what I have seen with my own stuff and that of other people I know, I’m actually not that surprised. I think it’s appalling that people can be so ignorant and rude, but I’m not surprised.

  15. Cori says:

    Thank god you have a sense of humor. I’d most like get snippy and bitchy, but that’s my personality.

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      The ‘snippy bitchy’ can definitely come out to play Cori! But I find that blunt humour tends to work best…and it gives ME a good laugh! 🙂

  16. Diane says:

    It’s amazing how uncouth people can be sometimes. Kudos to you for making a proactive list of responses. I hope you don’t have a chance to use them. 😀

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      Yep, Diane, I really shouldn’t be surprised at this point by some of the things that I hear, but it never ceases to amaze me! I’ve used a few of the responses – gave me a good giggle, I must say! 🙂

  17. Chinagirl says:

    Well I think u said it all! Love your attitude – your humour, compassion, strength & grace are definitely not disabled!! U rock ♡ China

    1. Bree Hogan says:

      As always, lovely, thank you for your unwavering support and uplifting comments. Xx

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