It's not long ago that people used to call disabled people invalids, you may still hear it from older generations. Of course this term implies that they're not valid in society, which is a very untrue belief. Disability is not a lifestyle any of us choose, whether we are born disabled or suffer an accident or illness in later life. The term disabled isn't much better either. Many of us are plenty 'able.' It all depends on the condition that has made them disabled. When it comes to illness and disability it can make people really uncomfortable and awkward. People simply do not know how to behave when faced with meeting a disabled or chronically ill person, or how they think they should behave. So to tell you a funny story. Before I became ill I was getting off a train when this blind young man stepped forward to feel for the train and subsequently got a handful of boob. The poor guy was mortified and so apologetic. After checking he was ok I just burst out laughing. It was an easy mistake to make. Could you imagine if I'd have reacted as though without regard for the fact he was blind? Basically calling him for a perv and sexual harassment.
So a good example is seeing a woman with a bald head or wearing a heafscarf and automatically your response is sympathy and sadness. You picture her as a brave soul that is trying to have a normal day whilst battling terminal cancer and facing the indignities of the treatment. But maybe that woman does not have cancer at all. Maybe she has alopecia. Or perhaps it's even a personal choice.
One of my recent favourite tv adverts is for Barclays bank. If you haven't seen it, view it here. It shows how they are helping their customers more by showing a visually impaired comedian demonstrating their cash machines by plugging in headphones so he can hear the instructions. It also shows him doing a stand up gig and joking about how these cashpoints work, which I think is a great touch as he's showing a lighthearted side to it. By making people laugh I think it is a great way to make people think more positively about approaching disability. In a way saying "hey don't feel sorry for me." It's a great way to connect with people.
The point is regardless of illness or disability we are still people. Just the same as everyone else but just with a different story to tell. But on a fundamental level we still have all the same feelings and fears as everyone else or like a 'normal' person, to use an awful term.
The charity Scope, the charity "that exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else" have recently launched a campaign called end the awkward aimed at eliminating any awkwardness when it comes to interacting with disabled people in all kinds of situations. Here's a link to a playlist of all the videos. I really recommend watching them and sharing them. Basically it's about saying "hey, life is full of awkward moments, but just keep calm and remember to just be normal." The fact is you're likely to encounter disabled people whereever you go, so learning how to interact and not feel awkward is important.
Do you have any experience of people being awkward towards you? Or have you ever panicked at how to react to a disabled person? Let me know in the comments.