Tomatoes, Potatoes and Teaching Things

An English teacher, baker, candlestick maker - trying to make it work farming in the country and teaching in the city.

When I'm not prematurely graying, writing lesson plans, and tending the vegetables, I drink hot tea, run, constantly trim back the privet, and pet the cat. I also have problems accepting that fictional characters are not real.

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And now, a wonderful (and useful) entry, courtesy of Sovin, on etiquette for interacting with people with disabilities. Sovin?

1. If you see someone with a visible disability (or someone tells you about an invisible one!), it’s pretty natural to do a double take, especially if that person has a pretty/cool cane/crutch(es)/chair/etc. But gawking or saying “But you don’t look sick/seem so able/etc!” is really hurtful. If you catch yourself doing so, please apologize - that means the world!

2. “I hope that you have a system that works for you/that your [medication, therapy, medical device] is working well for you” is a much more cool, adult response than “I hope you get better/don’t need it soon.”

3. Most people don’t mind polite questions! “May I ask about [behaviour, disability, or device]?” is preferable to “Why don’t you…” questions or comparing people to stereotypes or media examples (usually incorrect and occasionally really offensive!).

4. I love witty humour! But please think twice before making jokes. “I should be holding the door open for you!” when someone with a cane is holding the door? That stings, a lot.

5. Try to think about other people’s limitations! If you want to invite a friend to go somewhere, is there wheelchair access? A person with a cane may only have one hand - how much can you carry/hold/easily open doors with the same? Try to keep pace with them, don’t walk ahead, then forget or pause to wait every few feet, it can be really embarrassing.

6. If it looks like someone is having trouble, asking sincerely if you can help is great! Assuming that someone wants help or how you can do it is rude and inconsiderate.

7. If you see a person with a disability using or doing one thing one day but not the next, that doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Sometimes I can walk across the room without my cane, sometimes I can’t; that doesn’t mean that I’m lying about needing it, and it’s a hurtful thing to hear.

8. Don’t touch a person’s medical device without permission. Ever. It’s rude, invasive, and threatening. They aren’t toys; they’re necessities, aids, and, for a lot of people, the basis of their independence and/or health.

9. Don’t offer unsolicited advice about treatments or health concerns. You may just want to help, but it comes across as condescending and rude if you treat someone like they haven’t done their research, especially when many people spend a lot of time considering how to best take care of their health.

10. People with disabilities are people! They aren’t objects of pity or inspiration, and they aren’t martyrs, no matter what the after school specials say. Be respectful and treat other adults like adults, apologize if you make an error, ask about their experiences rather than assuming, and you should get along just fine!

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