This one is mostly about common sense. People see a wheelchair or hear the words ‘learning difficulties’ or ‘disabled’ and automatically make assumptions that those in wheelchairs and having learning difficulties cannot understand a situation or what people are saying to them. They are under the impression that we cannot answer for ourselves and therefore speak to who we are with as if we are not present.
I find doctors and other medical professionals in particular have a bad habit of speaking to my parents about my health and medication, assuming I don’t know or understand my health needs and what my medication does and the effects it has. This irritates me very much.
The way I see is those with disabilities should be regarded by everyone and be included in conversations, especially conversations about their own health and wellbeing. Its not just about doctors and other medical professionals, its about people’s attitudes in general.
Those who come across people with physical and mental difficulties and are not in regular contact with some of their needs often misunderstand them.
As they are unaware of the extent of the person’s needs, they are not sure how to react around someone of these needs and things might come out wrong because of this.
Maybe it’s just me being more aware of it because of my situation, but I can often tell from the manor and behavior of people whether they are comfortable or are used to being around those with physical and mental disabilities or not. The thing here is ignorance towards the world of disability and not being aware of how to approach them or act in their presence.
Looking at it from their prospective, it’s not done viciously, in a way its done with best intensions, people speak to those involved in that person’s care rather than the person themselves, in doing this they avoid any hurt, misunderstanding or hurt – but in fact its having the opposite affect.
Regardless of your own comfort and insecurities, I feel whatever your question is you should always speak to the person it is concerning, then if you realise they can’t answer or can’t understand for any reason then that’s when you approach and speak to their parents or guardian or carer and ask them.
Also when approaching the individual with any physical or mental disability, speak at regular volume and regular tone that you would anyone else.
Then adapt the volume and tone of your voice according to whether you see the person can respond or not. Once again, its about ignorance, people don’t have enough awareness of these aspects and this needs to change. Soon.
Something that people have got to be aware of is that every disability is different, the spectrums for each are very great and they affect everybody differently. Just because we can’t communicate to the full extent that someone else can or act or respond in the same way, our capabilities are sometimes underestimated.
Regardless of our physical, mental and communication issues, we can still register and understand what is being said to us. When this happens to me, or I witness it happening to others, I am quick to respond with an in-depth answer just to prove that I can respond and understand what is being said, pointing out that I can understand and we can register what other people are saying. We do have feelings which can be hurt just like everyone else.
People should have the same level of respect for everyone regardless of ability and be aware that we as a group have feelings just like everyone else and they be we can as easily be hurt or take offence.