Not many people have experience around somebody who's physically disabled. If they do, it's from a distance. Personally, even though I suffer from cerebral palsy and have had major hip reconstructive surgery, as far as being disabled goes, I'm one the lucky ones. Many people with cerebral palsy can barely talk, feed, or dress themselves. I am much more independent and a lot of people don't know how to handle it. So, I get a lot of silly questions and unnecessary gestures thrown my way that can be very annoying.
1. If you don't mind me asking, what happened to you?
I understand people's curiosity, but if you've never met me and I'm out in public, please don't come up to me and ask me what happened. First of all, it's awkward as Hell. Secondly, it's pretty rude and naïve to think that I'm going pour my life story into you filled with very personal and sensitive information.
2. Are you able to you know, have sex?
This next question is rarely asked out loud. But it's one of the most common questions everyone is thinking inside their head. The answer? Well, simply yes. I can have sex and I do it quite well I might add. Just because my legs are broken and I can't walk on my own, it doesn't mean my penis doesn't work.
3. Here, do you want to sit? Take my seat.
I certainly understand that this question doesn't come from ignorance, it comes from kindness. When I walk in a room full of people and all the chairs are taken and someone gets up for me, I know they're just looking out for me. But, at the same time, one of the honors I work so hard to obtain is to be looked at as being like everyone else. I certainly know that if I didn't have a walker no one would be giving up their chair as often as they do for me. Admittedly, I know I need that chair more than anyone else in the room, but it's still annoying.
4. Do you need help? Here, let me help you.
Now, it's the second part of this question that's the problem. There's nothing that makes me more uncomfortable than when someone I don't know proceeds to help me without my permission. There's always that random person that wants to grab me under the arm or take my hand to help me up a flight of stairs. Or when I go out to a restaurant and the hostess walks me to my table and takes away the chair, like I'm just supposed to pull my walker up and eat standing. There's nothing wrong with wanting to help, but keep in mind is that every disabled person is different and has different abilities. The best way to approach it, is to ask, "Can I help you and if so how?" Don't ASSUME.
5. Will you ever be able to walk? Or is this forever?
Valid question, but it's not something that permanently physically disabled people like to think about. It took many of us long enough to accept their circumstances and look at the positive. The last thing we want to do is think about the negative.
These questions and experiences just scratch the surface. There are hundreds maybe even thousands I've heard throughout my lifetime. A little curiosity never hurt anybody. But try to use a little bit of common sense when asking. Also, try to remember that not every question needs to be asked.