You may be familiar with the proverb, "Curiosity killed the cat." That saying used to warn against the dangers of unnecessary investigation. Many questions people have asked me about my wheelchair and disability fall into the category of unnecessary investigation. As anyone in a wheelchair or disability can attest … questions come with the territory. And just like any question asked to any human being, there is no right or wrong answer. In my experience, it depends on who, what, how, where and when they asked the question.
When presented with a question, I remember before my injury none of these answers were evident to me. I don’t want to shame people for asking questions. In fact, the last thing I want to do is to make the general public afraid to talk to a person with a disability. Personally, I would rather someone ask a question than stare at me and wonder. I think open dialog is always a good thing. We have the opportunity to teach people what is offensive and why. Having had my disability for some time, I can often see the questions on their face before they’re even asked. Sometimes I’ll even go ahead and tell them why I use a wheelchair for mobility. More often than not, if they’re asking these types of questions, the person has my well being in mind.
Questions that come from perfect strangers have taken me minute to master. Many times, the questions are too personal. “How do you have sex?” These generally aren’t water cooler or coffee talk conversations for most folks in the world, why should it be any different for someone who is in a wheelchair? It takes patience, grace and a good sense of humor to deal with these situations.
Here are questions that I have been asked before where I have either decided not to answer or find a humorous answer that decreases the tension I might be feeling.
Q: Are you just sitting in that wheelchair, or do you really need it?
A: I was shot in a robbery 31 years ago that left me paralyzed and this is how I get around.
Q: What’s wrong with you?
A: If you are referring to the wheelchair, I am paralyzed and need it for mobility. If you are referring to anything else, that might take longer to explain!
Q: When will you be able to walk again?
A: There is no cure for complete paralysis but you never know what the future could hold.
Q: Where can I buy a wheelchair like that?
A: This a custom lightweight wheelchair for people with severe disabilities who are very active. If you or someone you know needs one you have to start with a doctor’s prescription and an evaluation with a therapist and an assistive technology professional.
Q: Can paralyzed people get pregnant?
A: Yes, women with paralysis and other disabilities have babies all the time. I have three kids that were all born after my injury.
Q: Can paralyzed people have sex?
A: Yes, there have been many books written on the subject I can share a few if you’re interested.
Q: How did you give birth?
A: The old fashioned way.
Q: Your partner must be a fantastic person?
A: I would only marry a fantastic person! I hope you don’t mean he is fantastic because he married a woman in a wheelchair. He really never saw me as disabled.
It’s easy to see how offensive these questions can be. Especially if the person asking is someone you just met or a perfect stranger. When things get too personal, I also find that “none of your businesses” is an entirely acceptable response! There is a funny blog written by Shannon DeVido titled How I Usually Answer These 10 Common questions about being a wheelchair User
. She talks about some of the questions she gets, too.
These are only a few of the problematic questions people with disabilities are asked. I would love to hear from you about questions you have been asked and tactful ways to respond. You can send them to me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or any of my social media pages:
Now go out and live your best Life Possible!