We have been away the last couple of weeks. A mix of work and a small holiday catching up with old friends. For some reason, I started to take notice of other people’s actions. The amount of times I have been stared at is crazy.
Kids stare, because they are inquisitive. They want to ask questions but this results in them getting into trouble from their parent or guardian. They want to know why someone is in a wheelchair, why someone has a guide dog, service dog, or long cane. Instead of answering their questions, we tell them that it is rude to ask or talk about. That we shouldn’t approach people who are different and say hello. That service dogs are something to fear. This turns them into adults who do not know how to respond to someone with a disability. So they stare. They stand right in front of you, so you can’t get by and look down at you. It’s really upsetting to be honest.
I have friends who have vision impairments and a couple of them use guide dogs. I know they are extremely frustrated when children start patting the dogs or calling the dogs, trying to scare the dogs or react by screaming. A guide dog in harness is working. No one should touch or approach a guide dog when it’s working. But that’s not a reason to create a fear in a child. If they are curious, talk to them. Tell them that the handlers eyes don’t work like yours, that the dog is guiding their person and keeping them safe. They are not something to be scared of. If you have a question, please ask them. Usually if they are not in a hurry, they are happy to talk to you, just like anyone else. They would much rather a couple of questions then be completely disrespected.
I’m much the same. I don’t mind if kids ask me why I use a wheelchair. It creates understanding. It creates a generation of acceptance. Staring at me, pointing at me, saying things that are very disrespectful is upsetting. Teenagers poking fun at how people walk. Adults being just downright rude. But are these actions a result of us being afraid and trying to be too politically correct? We think we are teaching our children to be polite by not acknowledging difference. But really it’s not. It’s creating another generation of people who don’t know, who don’t want to know.
When I worked with children prior to my accident, I had a couple of children with special needs. We spoke openly about disabilities. We spoke about how people are different and that’s ok. We spoke about how sometimes our bodies don’t work the way they are supposed to. They were happy with honest explanations. The children I had in my care were amazing little people. They always made sure their peers were included, disability or not. I hope that this has continued for them into school. I hope that I have contributed to creating a generation of acceptance, of understanding and inclusion.
Being different is nothing to be ashamed of. We need to encourage conversation. We need to talk about things rather then say ‘because’ or ‘it’s rude to ask’ or ‘staring is rude’. There is a difference between being inquisitive and being rude. Don’t let your children engage in behaviour that causes people with disabilities to become frustrated, upset or unsafe. Educate them. Explain to them. Talk to them so they understand. Help to change the cycle of disrespect. Maybe this way we will have adults who are more inclusive and respectful of others.
#CRPS #complexregionalpainsyndrome #mentalhealth #depression #anxiety #breakthestigma #embracedifference #change