“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