Make no mistake –- people with disabilities love to hear good things. Praise, respect, jokes, romantic overtures, bring it on. They can turn a crappy day into an awesome one, but only if the words are uttered. For those who love interacting with people with disabilities, or have no problem with it whatsoever, here are 10 things you can say that will brighten our day.
1) “You’re hired”
Roughly 10 percent of the labor force are people with disabilities. To all the people out there thinking we’re lazy, it’s only because employers don’t want to hire us. Being turned down because we’re disabled is a common practice by businesses and other places looking for talent across the country. It’s illegal, but it happens. Some places are awesome and do give us a chance, but this is not as frequent as it should be.
2) “Yes, we are accessible”
When hunting for accessible accommodations when traveling or even trying to make reservations at a restaurant in old part of town, hearing the phrase “Why yes we are accessible” is one of the sweetest thing to our ears. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of people with disabilities. Maybe it’s a ramp, an elevator, closed-captioning, grab bars, whatever constitutes accessibility to you, but hearing these worry-erasing words can be better than taking a xanax, especially when you’re on the road.
3) “You’re beautiful”
Another phrase we love to hear that’s universal is, “You’re beautiful,” or for the guys, “You’re hot.” Feeling sexually attractive is a huge happy-maker on the brain. It can be hard enough feeling attractive if you’re able bodied, it’s even harder when you have a disability and don’t fit the social norm of what’s considered attractive. For many of us, to hear this phrase just once would be one of the greatest things ever.
4) “I forgot you were disabled”
Nothing makes me happier when someone forgets I have a disability. It’s usually the only thing most people think about and if you ask me, it’s worse than racism. Ableism is the name of the game. Whenever you get close to someone though and they have a moment where they forget you’re disabled, you know they’ve finally come to a point where they don’t think about your disability. They finally see you for you.
5) “May I help you?”
Hearing the words, “May I help you?” are paramount to telling someone you respect them in the disability world. There’s nothing worse than someone taking your bags and carrying them without asking you first. The helping without asking thing can be quite jarring, especially if you’re in a wheelchair and you come up behind us. I have a friend who, while riding the subway NYC, had a stranger come up behind her wheelchair and start pushing her without asking. This is one of the worst things you could ever do to a wheelchair-user.
6) “Cool” instead of “Good for you”
A really simple one is taking the “Good for you” out of your vocabulary and replacing it with “Cool” or some other positive phrase, and not over emphasizing their successes in life just because the person has a disability. I can’t stand anyone who says “Good for you” when you tell them about your life. Whenever they respond in a normal manner as if they would with anyone else makes me elated beyond belief.
7) “I love you”
Everybody wants to be loved and of course we are no different. Having someone tell us “I love you” is the epitome of acceptance in a romantic relationship, and most people with disabilities still want this in their life. We do not want to live solitary lives even if our disability is hard. We of course don’t want someone to lie and tell us they love us just to make us feel good in some kind of condescending way, but a lot of people with disabilities are single. It’s sad when so many people don’t give someone with a disability a chance.
8) “It’s fixed!”
Mobility devices from wheelchairs and walkers to shower chairs and automatic lifts all breakdown more often than they should. Try using a wheelchair for a couple of weeks and see what I mean. It’s not like a watch breaking or anything like that when our things break. It’s a big deal. It’s our “legs,” the only vehicle we could ever drive, our breathing machine. When our things break, we’re really stuck. So to hear the words “It’s fixed,” well… it can make us happier than a bucket full of clams.
9) “We’ll still figure out a way to make it work”
When you do come across a place that is not accessible, most places are afraid of liability and don’t even try to get you in thinking creatively. It can be a really heartbreaking. Feeling like you’re being discriminated against is never good, especially when they don’t understand your perspective. When you do run across a business that is more than willing to jerry-rig a solution, “Sure, we can figure out a way to make it work,” oh we love you. This phrase gives us faith in humanity.
10) “I don’t care if you have a disability”
When you first meet someone on a romantic or a friendship basis, hearing the sweet words, “I don’t care you’re disabled” is the ultimate thing we could hear. We’re so often turned down or not included because of our disability. It’s a fact of life, so to hear these words staves off one of our biggest worries.
So there you have it. Ten ultimate things we like to hear. We may not get a chance to hear all of these things in our lives, but if we could hear just a few, oh we’d be some mighty happy people.