Since you turned five, have you ever been out in public and had someone ask your friend, family member, significant other etc. questions about you as if you weren’t there?
“What’s her name?”
“Does she like this or that?”
“How does she do this or that?”
“Where should I put her beverage?”
I’m willing to bet that if this kind of behavior were directed at you, you would be shocked and offended. Sadly, this is a common reaction to people with disabilities.
Sities, if you’re ever hanging with a blind person and something like this happens, don’t freak out, it’s okay. It happens, we’ll handle it. But, don’t encourage the person doing it. Like, dude, we can answer for ourselves. I know it can be awkward if they are looking to you for an answer. I kinda get the “eye contact thing”. I sympathize, I really do. But, if our situations were reversed, if you could see this from another angle, (no pun intended) you would see where I’m coming from. You wouldn’t want me carrying on a conversation about you, or making decisions for you, as if you were incapable of making them yourself.
Disclaimer: I’m so not judging anyone if in the awkwardness or suddenness of an encounter like this your instinct is/was to answer quickly and end the weirdness. But seriously, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. I can and will answer them and ignore the fact that they initially: A. assumed I could or would not talk, and/or B. decided they were entitled to ask things about me without even speaking to me.
So, what should you do?
My sister and my childhood best friend have been rock stars at dealing with this behavior.
One shrugs and says something like: “Why don’t you ask her?”
The other looks to me, signaling to the person asking that it’s my question to answer.
I applaud both responses. They are chill, non-confrontational ways of communicating gently to the other person that: A. Dude, you have, intentionally or unintentionally, just done something kinda rude, and B. That they should not expect an answer from them.
If you’re not comfortable with either of these responses, that’s fine too. Just please, then, keep your mouth shut. If you answer before I have a chance to you are encouraging their distorted beliefs. Answering for me or another person with a disability who you know is capable of responding is condescending, rude, and super not cool.
They can ask you, and they will.
But we can answer, and we will.
I can’t see…But that does not mean I can’t speak.
Be kind, and be aware.
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