People with disabilities have continuously faced stereotypes from every social group and their families. Today, the world is showing more respect towards them but there are still some grey areas that need attention. Most people would assume that people with disabilities are no longer normal and in a way to encourage or provide assistance, they would totally go overboard neglecting their thoughts and ideas.
One of such ways which people do this is by the words they say. There are some things you should never say to someone with a disability. Some of these things would seem like encouragement or motivational words but to the person with the disability, it would sound like you are demeaning them.
People with disabilities have continuously stated that the words we will list below always do more harm than good and it’s better not to say anything at all than to say them as a form of encouragement.
1. You are Too Young/Pretty/Intelligent to have a Disability
This is one of the negative stereotypes of people with disabilities. Many people might say this with the belief that they are encouraging the person but they are simply being negative about the situation. Saying that someone is too young/pretty/intelligent to be disabled is like saying that young/pretty/intelligent people don’t have disabilities which is totally false. For some people with disabilities, this might make them blame themselves as the cause of their disability or begin to regretfully reflect on the past times before they became disabled.
2. Your Disability is not as Serious as that of Another Person
Many people with disabilities come across this statement in their workplace, schools and social gatherings. Sometimes this statement is made as a form of encouragement in a way to tell the person with the disability that they should be happy that their condition is not as worse as the next person. Other times, it could be said to evaluate how much help someone is entitled to.
Whatever the case may be, the statement is wrong and counterproductive. People with disabilities have varying strengths and weaknesses and should never be compared with others with disabilities. Most people tend to show more compassion for people with physical disabilities as they consider their situation more serious than those with mental disabilities. It is best to never assume what someone with a disability is going through if you don’t have a disability yourself.
3. Don’t Stress, Let me Help you with that
People with disabilities would need assistance more than able-bodied people but that doesn’t mean they can’t do some tasks on their own. While offering assistance every now and then would make life easier for them, it is best for you to allow them to try out some things on their own.
It is best to wait until they ask for your help or until you see them struggling with something before offering them assistance.
4. You’re Inspiring
For able-bodied people, living with a disability and being able to live normally must be one of the bravest things possible. This why most able-bodied people would tell people with disabilities that they are inspiring or brave either in a way to encourage or just to voice out how they feel about the person’s disability.
Unfortunately, many people with a disability don’t want to be considered brave or inspiration just because they are able to live with their disability, they preferred to be treated normally. Unless someone with a disability has performed a task worthy of praise, you should never tell them that they are an inspiration or offer any similar words of encouragement.
5. You Look Okay to me
Most people with mental disabilities have to deal with this stereotype. For able-bodied people, it would be difficult to accept that someone has a disability if it is not something they can see physically. However, you should be able to respect someone when they say they have a mental disability.
Rather than disbelieving them or expressing shock, you would try to learn more about their disability and see if there is any way you could offer them assistance. This is way better and more productive.
6. Everyone has a disability too
While saying this might sound like you’re encouraging the person with the disability, it is actually counterproductive. Most able-bodied people don’t understand how it feels to live with a disability and thus you can’t say that everyone has a disability. Getting fatigued, stressed out or going for days without sleep wouldn’t count as a disability compared to someone with chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease or Crohn disease.
It’s better to strike out these words of encouragement as they would do more harm than good. Such words would make people with disabilities look down on themselves as they would continuously compare themselves with able-bodied people.
7. You look so healthy
This is similar to telling someone with a disability that they look too young/pretty/intelligent to be disabled. While most people would say this in a way to flatter or encourage the person, it is better not to say this in any situation even if the person with the disability is just recovering from a major operation.
8. You can achieve anything you set your mind to
This is just plain ignorance. Saying this to someone with a disability is totally wrong especially if you don’t know what they set their mind to achieve in the first place. For most able-bodied people this is just one the many ways to encourage someone with a disability. For people with disabilities, it is just one of the many unnecessary words of encouragement they would never want to hear.
Before offering words of encouragement, flattery or advice to someone with a disability its best you know them well enough and understand what their disability is about. For some people, their disabilities don’t stop them from living a normal life while for others, performing activities that normally love to do before their disability would be difficult or impossible. Rather than assuming, it is best you ask relevant questions and get to know more about them.
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