When I’m Asked What’s Wrong With You?: Should I Take Offence? As a disabled person myself and a full-time wheelchair user, I am often asked by complete strangers, “what is wrong with you?”. Some people take great offence at this, yet these same people bang on about how ignorant ableds are! Can ableds win?
What’s Wrong With You?
I was on holiday last year and I experienced good and bad attitudes from non-disabled people.
The good side (in my opinion): It was at the end of a wonderful ’80s themed night aboard a ship I was cruising on with my family (read my review). We were finishing our drinks after dancing the night away to all the popular 80’s music when the lady sat at the next table asked me “do you mind me asking what is wrong with you?”. I replied, “no, of course not”. I genuinely didn’t mind.
I went on to explain how I was born with my disability Arthrogryposis, how this affects my daily life and how my husband is my carer etc. etc. She seemed genuinely interested and even asked more questions when she didn’t understand something. She was amazed when I spoke of the barriers disabled people face on a daily basis by society/buildings etc. I explained this was why I loved cruising, as it was one of the more accessible holidays available to me. She couldn’t understand why access wasn’t better.
I spoke for quite a while, not realising how passionate I had become explaining why I do the things I do and how my disability affects my outlook on life. So I wrapped things up and said goodnight.
The bad side: (again on our cruise, we (my family) had a great but tiring day at port this particular day. I was making my way back to my cabin and while in the lift alone, this lady got on at another floor and immediately starting complaining to me how sore her feet were and how she had walked and walked and walked the whole day. How she couldn’t wait to take her shoes off and rest her poor feet. Now maybe it was because I was tired but all I wanted to shout at her was “at least you bloody well have legs that you can use to walk and walk and walk!”.
Should I Get Offended?
Should I get offended? I suppose this question can’t really be answered with a simple yes or no. It boils down to the individual’s perception of they deem to be offensive, the same way as asking “did you find that joke funny?”. Each person has their own idea of what is funny, the same way as each individual find some things offensive while others do not. Me personally, I’m not offended if someone genuinely wants to know. But that’s the key for me if the person asking is genuine!
Offend: To irritate, annoy, or anger; – Cause resentful displeasure in: – To affect (the sense, taste, etc.) disagreeably. – To hurt or cause pain to.
I kinda get it when disabled people say how rude and personal this is but, in all fairness, you can decide how personal your answer will be…..Can you not? I can’t help but feel that some disabled people want their cake and eat it. Some go on and on about how ableds are so uneducated and ignorant towards disability, yet when they take the time to ask you about it, you go all offended and say how rude of them?
I love someone wanting to take time out of their day, holiday, shopping or whatever to ask me about my disability. I hope that I am contributing to helping people better understand disability (well mine anyway), so they may pass this on or prevent discrimination in the future.
Of course, I think it’s fairly easy to know if someone is being false or malicious in their questioning and yes, I totally agree they should not be entertained!
One of the things I do get offended by is the fact my husband wears an artificial left leg and normally the first thing strangers assume is that he has been in the forces and lost his leg. They seem to forget that he may have been born with a disability. I mean, there is no other way to have an artificial limb, is there!!
The other is that I have polio. When I used to walk with my calipers, 90% of people (especially minicab drivers) always assumed I had polio. (Not sure if this was anything to do with a common charity box outside a lot of shops back then that was a young boy wearing one calliper on his leg). I would then have to correct them and explain what Arthrogryposis was 🙂
To me, assumptions are more offensive than just asking me “what’s wrong with you”. I am always happy to take the time to talk to anyone wishing to be educated.
If you want to know about my disability, I will always do my best to explain it to you, provided you are genuinely interested. I understand how difficult and uncomfortable it might be for some, to talk to disabled people. People are only human at the end of the day and are scared of “different”.
I saw a video some time ago where a wheelchair user (male) sat in a very popular area (can’t remember where now), sat with a cardboard sign saying people could ask him anything about his disability. I have often thought of doing this myself. I am intrigued as to what people would ask me.
In my opinion, disabled people who complain and give out about how rude ableds are for wanting to know about their disability don’t have the right to complain and moan about the same ableds of being ignorant or uneducated!