Making people uncomfortable w/o tryingJan 04 02:37
Let's face it, people in wheelchairs live on the fringes of society. Many of us break our way in, whether through jobs, family or friends, but overall we're still considered "fringers." Society loves putting us there.
It's not rocket science to understand why either. When you're not the same as everybody else in a human society, this happens. Religion and race can be hard enough for people to get over, asking them to look past a disability can be nearly impossible, unless they've had direct experience with someone with a disability that is, and then it's a completely different story.
For example, my sister starting at age 7 had someone in her family with a major disability (me). She's always known a full-time wheelchair-user, so for her, when she happens upon someone with a disability, she doesn't freak out or feel as if she's suffocating in a room she needs to get out of asap. A disability isn't the end of the world. She can roll with it.
But as we all know this isn't the case for a lot of people. Have you ever been out in public and had the uncanny feeling you were making someone uncomfortable without even trying? Most people just aren't that comfortable around anyone that's different, especially if it's a physical kind of different. I don't know about you, but making people uncomfortable just by going through my day to day activities is getting old.
Should we even care if we make people uncomfortable? Or, should we take it upon ourselves to try to make them feel more at ease? I know for me, I don't always have time to babysit people who are uncomfortable. I can only soothe nerves by explaining my injury so many times, before I feel like my quality of life is being affected. If you feel like this is happening to you, you need to stop right there. Making people feel comfortable around us should never trump our own needs.
I know I've made lots of people uncomfortable these past 20 years. It happens everywhere I go. People will say I'm too confident or borderline intimidating because of my wheelchair being present. Ten to one, if my injury had never happened, I would still be called brash, but not "intimidating." They tell you to be confident in rehab, and then when you you do....you're intimidating. You just can't win.
All I know is that life is too short to take strangers feelings into consideration whenever this happens. You should always be polite of course, but if your very presence makes people so uncomfortable, no, I have no aloha for that. We can always change how we respond when it happens.
Don't get offended when people feel uncomfortable. Really. Instead, consider it a standard part of the dis-life and try to laugh it off. If our wheelchairs (oooh scary chairs on wheels) really freak out people that much, I dunno....they deserve to be uncomfortable.
When people are intimidated or uncomfortable, what do you do? Or do you even care when it happens?
Post a comment about this blog!
1. lauren | Jan 07 08:24
Well, its almost 20yrs. for me too. I been wheelchair user manually at home and power chair to outings and appointments with Docs.I have often wondered peoples reactions towrd disability person like us.I'm pretty independent in alot of ways and prefer that long as I can. Am not good at making friends and I do feel family steps or not shy away from me. Thats a feeling I get as well society? I do notice they do not know how to react really around us! I get baby talked too! I'm 56 yrs. old! Alert andawre. To me my inside feeling is that my injury you forever just don't get over it! I mean its there. Believe me I do have moments whether its intimidation or not or people just get just plain rude.Spirit is what you have to keep going. I mean its so easy to hurt the spirit like someone had said once on a tv show. There you have it. So don't get offended is when your spirit does not get tarnished.Frankly, I just wheel away. But most people I've encountER
2. lauren | Jan 07 08:41
tell you what you just don't get over its really anything you do..but yet It hard to explain. Talkless or speachless disability is a hard thing and a tackle. Thats intimidation all by itself or is it? Pretend, denial, or feeling of being lied to I could go on. Being disabled that situation does arise. I mean how stupidfied U think I am I think!? I think that cuz of aids actions or remarks they say and people so you tell me? I really culd go on if I culd find peace of mind and relax I be ok....................
3. lauren | Jan 07 09:01
Then again I care but really u can't do anything verbally or not. I have felt helpess more than the other person feeling uncomfortable..I mean what could you say or do in your wheelchair? Like I said few things priorly, but as for intimidation it depends on the person and how you take it and go from there. Or just wheel away.
4. j | Jan 10 03:07
Tiffany, you hit it on the mark!! So true!! Confidence with a disability becomes intimidating to some people, and i've experienced this. But who should apologize for being themselves and being comfortable in their own skin? Love this article!
Disability buzz, travel, fashion and dating — fun things to amp up everyday wheeling life.
Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.