This blog post is going to be a bit of a rant…
I have been thinking about this a lot recently. Is it really so bad if a stranger asks about your condition? I often get people asking me “what are those things on your legs?” “what’s wrong with your hands?” and it honestly annoys me.
It annoys me because it is none of their business. It would be easy for me to offer a simple explanation but why should I? I do not think that their need to know and their curiosity (as innocent it may be) should precede my privacy. That’s how it feels every time a literal stranger says “what are those things on your legs?” it shocks me that people can be so rude. In the past I’ve had drunk 50+ year old men approach me asking about my leg splints and I just think of how inappropriate it is. I wouldn’t dream of walking up to someone and saying “why are you wearing that blue jacket today?” It’s a bazaar concept. Imagine being in work and a customer just starts randomly talking about your hands, describing the details of them, questioning you on what it’s like to have those particular hands. It is just plain old weird. I’m expected to just tell my medical history to a stranger purely because they’re curious. I don’t care if they ask politely or not, asking at all is rude in itself.
However, I am conflicted about this. On the one hand, According to Scope 67% of the British public feel awkward about disability. (Have a look at some other interesting facts here) so I think it’s important to open a dialogue around disability, as a lot of able bodied people feel uncomfortable around disabled topics but is it really necessary to discuss my medical history? Is it the responsibility of disabled people to educate and allow conversations take place in order to end the taboo around disability? This could then open to a wider debate – could this way of thinking result in the idea that the curiosity of an able-bodied person trumps the privacy of a disabled individual? In my experiences so far I would say that this is already the case. It’s as though they fully expect you to disclose all your medical history and information. Maybe I should just carry around a leaflet explaining my disability and maybe a copy of my bank statement incase they’re interested in that too.
Now don’t get me wrong. I understand not all able-bodied people act in this manner. I want to point out that this is the theme I am seeing in some able-bodied people. Perhaps this is a result from society’s attitudes towards disability as a whole. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am unafraid to discuss my disability. I am proud of myself and I think it is important to embrace it, especially if you want the people around you to embrace it too.
Someone you know asking is a different story altogether. If you happen to be a colleague or someone I know from university, even someone who I am simple acquaintances with; I am happy to talk about my condition as I understand you may be curious. I do not want to discourage anyone from asking me about my CMT, especially if we are friends or are around each other often.
This rant is purely aimed at the curious customers. The nosy neighbours. The prying pooch walkers and every scrutinizing stranger who thinks they have a right to be intrusive just to satisfy their inquisitiveness. Next time you want to ask someone about their disability, perhaps reflect on the way they could feel about being asked to explain what is wrong with them, rather than being asked about how they are feeling or their name. (I use the term wrong because it’s so commonly used in my experience of the question) Think about the language you may use when you ask these questions.
Thank you for reading xoxo