Let’s face it, society still has a long way to go when it comes to treating people with disabilities the same as they would an abled person. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t offer your help when you can clearly see that they need it, but don’t treat them like they can’t do anything for themselves, because honestly, some of them are more abled than able people.
Twitter exploded with tweets from disabled people on Saturday after Imani Barbarin shared her story of how she was treated by an abled person, accompanied by the hashtag #AbledsAreWeird. Barbarin, who is a writer and advocate for the “representation, inclusion, and empowerment of disabled people” has cerebral palsy and has started many similar hashtags on Twitter before. In her tweet, she recalled the time when an abled person threw her crutch into the pool to “help her swim”.
I think about the time an abled random stranger threw my crutch into the pool “to help me swim” a lot. #AbledsAreWeird
— Crutches&Spice♿️ (@Imani_Barbarin) March 15, 2019
Barbarin spoke to Romper about the hashtag, saying that when it comes to disabled people, abled people seem to lose all of their common sense, causing them to act in strange and sometimes dangerous ways. “This isn’t the behavior that they would [display] around other abled people, so why would they do it with us?” she added. We totally agree. Just as we shouldn’t treat someone differently based on their race or gender, we shouldn’t treat people any differently just because they have a disability.
It seems that abled people really are weird
The tweet gained a lot of attention pretty fast and soon other people with disabilities shared similar stories of how abled people have made them felt like they weren’t capable of doing anything for or by themselves.
Some of the stories were a bit funny, while others were quite shocking. Looking at some of the posts, it’s clear that a lot of people have a massive misperception of how disabled people operate on a daily basis. They are adults and don’t want any special treatment. One Twitter user shared a story of how a woman once climbed underneath a bathroom stall door to ask her if she needed any help.
That time I was in the accessible bathroom stall & without warning a woman crawled under the door & into the stall with me to ask if I needed help. I’d given no indication that I needed help (because I didn’t). She just saw my wheelchair & assumed incompetence. 🤷🏻♀️#AbledsAREWeird
— Katy ♿ 🌊 (@Katydid516) March 16, 2019
Another user replied to the tweet, saying that her teacher used to send students to go check on her whenever she needed to use the bathroom. Really? Just take a moment to think about how embarrassing it would be for an abled person if someone did that. It’s no different for people with disabilities.
You too?!?! I’ve had this happen to me.
Or, my teachers used to send OTHER STUDENTS after me to check.
— Crutches&Spice♿️ (@Imani_Barbarin) March 16, 2019
So far, we can totally back the idea that abled people can be quite weird – and the weirdness doesn’t stop at the bathroom, it goes on to the grocery store. Apparently, disabled people can’t pick out their own groceries and are extremely brave for trying to do it in the first place. If someone called you brave when you successfully picked out your favorite cheese, would it make you feel any good?
@Imani_Barbarin Once I was at the grocery store with my service dog, buying frozen broccoli, and a woman came up to me and asked if I needed help “Finding my adult…” because clearly disabled people can’t select vegetables on our own? She also called me brave. #AbledsAreWeird
— Annesley Clark (@AnnesleyClark) March 16, 2019
With the above being said, there is of course nothing wrong with feeling inspired when you see disabled people going about their daily life the way they do, but don’t say it to them like it’s some big compliment. It just makes them feel inferior.
— Debra Bamidele ♿♏ (@Debrabamidele) March 16, 2019
Some people are still being disrespectful towards those with disabilities
Then there were those who had to deal with people who were downright insensitive and rude.
i was in a gov office yesterday & my mum (who is my carer) was helping me with paperwork, proof of ID, etc & the man serving us made jokes about me “being a mummy’s girl & child” when i got back in my wheelchair he said in a baby voice “are you spoon fed too?” #AbledsAreWeird
— Montana (@Montanalsabella) March 16, 2019
If you’re disabled and your mother happens to be your carer, that does not make you incompetent or a “mommy’s girl” and if someone has the audacity to say that to you, they’re the one who needs a bit of a good talking to from their mother.
Another user shared a similar story about how someone told them that they had to move out of their wheelchair because it was taking up too much space. Uhm… what? So apparently there are still some individuals out there who think that there are people making their way around in wheelchairs because they like wheeling around in a chair instead of walking.
That one time someone asked me if I could just move out of my chair bcs the chair was taking up a lot of room. I was pissed and responded with, “I’m not in this wheelchair bcs it’s fun.” And she literally responded, “Ok. Why ARE you in the wheelchair then?”#AbledsAreWeird pic.twitter.com/bSMAY45I0H
— Marybeth♿♀️🏳️🌈 (@poeticdiction) March 16, 2019
You can’t park with us
The ridiculousness doesn’t stop there. Sometimes disabled people are even judged for using disabled parking.
While using handicap parking at CVS w/ a permit, an octogenarian says, “You shouldn’t use your parent’s issue to get better parking when they aren’t even w/ you” as I was retrieving my crutch & after I had used a device to help me exit the car. #AbledsAreWeird
— Six (@SixieGames) March 16, 2019
People also seem to think that disabled people are so few that it’s not necessary to make sure that their allocated parking spots are always open and ready to use, just like normal parking spots.
Living in New England, it’s fun how every time it snows the handicapped spots are where they conveniently pile all the snow. Because apparently ableds think people with assistive mobility needs have no problem scaling ten foot snow banks. #AbledsAreWeird
— April Resists ♿️ (@AprilDelRario) March 16, 2019
Seeing #AbledsAreWeird trending makes me feel less alone. I see others out there that have to do without groceries like me- because, yes I really do need one of those two handicapped spots at the store. If I don’t get one I have to drive around till one is free or go home.
— We Hold These Truths 🇺🇸 (@kdqd3) March 16, 2019
Some think disabilities can be “cured”
Then there are the select few who still don’t seem to understand what a disability is and that it’s something you have to live with your entire life. If it was a temporary thing, we’d definitely have given it another name. Disabilities, just like your body type, is something you can’t ever change.
When my grandma calls me and asks me if im better yet and when i say no she says “well this is taking forever, why are you still sick?! Im ready for you to just be better”
Idk? Maybe its my chronic illness?
— ? ¿ ? ¿ ? (@napqueen__) March 16, 2019
This is my story. My mom always asks when I’ll no longer use a walker. My response: Never mom, this is my new normal. #AbledsAreWeird
— Zora Neale’s Student (@tblsnyder1) March 16, 2019
My dad asks all the time, “are you done faking yet?” It ripped my heart out at first, now I can smile and laugh because he doesn’t understand brain damage.
— Bunny Grandma (@GlisanMelissa) March 16, 2019
Society needs to take a class in disability 101
It’s kind of hard to believe that society is still so insensitive and seemingly misinformed about what disabilities are and how people with disabilities function in daily life. The truth is that most of them have adjusted so well that they don’t even need extra help. They can take care of themselves and their needs and just like any other abled person, they’ll ask if they need help with anything. Laila Alawa probably said it best in her tweet.
If you need a reality check as able-bodied person, educate yourself with #AbledsAreWeird.
This hashtag isn’t a joke, it’s about harassment and bullying. World, do better.
— Laila Alawa (@lulainlife) March 16, 2019
We can indeed do better. In fact, we should all take the time to educate ourselves on all the different disabilities out there and how people deal with them. Society clearly still doesn’t have the efficient knowledge to deal with people who are disabled. A lot of the time people feel uncomfortable because they don’t know much about a person’s disability and this leads to them saying or doing things that can be offensive. Being informed is the key to avoiding this. When in doubt, just treat that person as you would any abled person – they will appreciate that more than you trying to help them do simple things they can do themselves.