Good wheelchair etiquette, and common-sense manners, say to not talk over a wheelchair user as if she or he does not exist. Check out http://www.unitedspinal.org/pdf/DisabilityEtiquette.pdf for more tips on how to not be rude.

Check out United Spinal’s Disability Etiquette booklet for more tips on how to not be rude.

It’s a strange, strange world when it comes to what people perceive as rude, especially when it comes to people with disabilities. Some people don’t mind when we speak our minds but others … oh they’re not too keen on it. It can bring out the devil claws.

It’s as if we’re not allowed to react to rudeness because we’re disabled. Instead, we should feel lucky the nondisabled people of the world want us around at all. Since we need their help we should have no say, well, in anything really. That’s what it seems some people think.

I was raised to not cause arguments, to always be agreeable. After my injury I found it very hard, and still find it quite difficult, to speak my mind when I am treated poorly because of my disability. I will force myself to go there however, albeit not often enough. And when I do, it’s always because it’s something so maddening that not even the shyest, most passive person could ignore it.

Take St. Patrick’s Day for example. I was out at a bar with a big group of people, many of whom were my family members. My mother, step-father, sister, nephew, brother-in-law, uncle and a bunch of family friends were there. It was like a mini family reunion, and even some people who worked at my step-dad’s ice cream store in town were there. We always run into his old employees anywhere we go.

One of my step-dad’s old employees came over to our group to say hi, specifically my sister and mom. She started out by reaching over me to say hi to them, completely ignoring my presence, as if I didn’t even exist. I could’ve been that crazy ghost guy from Ghost, screaming for the world to hear me, but she wouldn’t have heard a thing. That was how invisible I felt. This lasted for about 25 seconds as their conversation continued — her in my personal space speaking to my family and not even looking me in the face. It was quite something. I was almost impressed at her ability to ignore my existence and yet be face-to-face with me for as long as she managed.

When she was finally introduced to me, I looked at her with annoyed, uninterested eyes. Eyes that were saying, “I don’t give a you-know-what who you are. Get away from my presence and be gone you biotch.” The problem is that my sister thought I was being rude. Yeah she got no smiles from me, but she treated me as if I wasn’t even a real person.

Sure, I suppose I could have ignored her behavior, and treated her sweetly. However I no longer have the ability to be that patient.

I stood up for myself. I don’t care if my sister thought I wasn’t polite, or if that girl’s dad died last year, there is no excuse for being rude and ignoring me just because I use a wheelchair. This is never OK and I vow till my dying day to speak up any time I see someone do this again to anyone in the future.

Have you ever been chastised for speaking your mind when treated poorly?