1) If you think you have a creative joke revolving around my wheelchair, it is most likely I have heard it 1 million times before. Don’t.
The amount of times people have approached me with the ‘you see me rolling, they hating’ lyrics from that song that came out all those years ago is ridiculous. It wasn’t funny then, and it’s not funny now. ‘
2) Don’t be ignorant.
Someone recently tried to ‘compliment’ me by saying "Well you’re not really retarded, because if you were, you wouldn’t be doing a degree." #FirstOfAll Who still uses the word ‘retarded‘ in 2018? Secondly, why would you even assume that because someone is in a wheelchair they wouldn’t be able to complete a degree? And finally, having a learning disability isn't something to be ashamed of. So if you are going to try and chat some one up, do so in a way that doesn't reveal your own ignorance.
3) I am not scary. I promise
I’ve noticed a lot of the time people act like they are scared of approaching wheelchair users. We won’t bite you at your elbows and we aren’t going to randomly slam our chairs into your legs at full speed (unless you provoke me.) There is really nothing to be scared of. Instead of staring, or acting awkward around us, just engage in the same way in which you would do with anyone else.
4) Get to know me before the date
Everyone is different but in the age of technology, a lot of people are meeting online through apps or social media websites. There are some people who want to meet straight away after a few messages exchanged back and forth, but for me personally; I like the idea of taking time to get to know each other before the date. I know it is not for everyone, as some people are not into the whole online chat thing, however I think talking beforehand allows me to open up about my disability a little bit, so there are no awkward moments on the first dates (well no more than usual), and we can plan to go somewhere that is actually accessible. I’ve been out to places before where I was actually picked out of my wheelchair and carried down some stairs into a restaurant. Not a good look!
5) Get used to people thinking you’re my carer. Play along, or give them a sarcastic response
One of the things that annoys me the most is when people will address questions about me to the person I’m with as if they are my carer, or they are better inclined to answer questions about me…than I am. As you spend more time with me you’ll probably notice this and there are two ways I prefer my date to handle the situation. Either play along in a really patronising manner so that the person speaking to us get’s really embarrassed, or just shut them down in a sarcastic manner. It is totally up to you which you choose.
6) Listen and repeat
Despite what people think, having a disability does not make you a part of a monolith and neither does being a wheelchair user. We are all individuals and what may be alright with one person may not be okay with another. This is why I always advise those who are able bodied to listen to their companions who are wheelchair users. Does this person us the term ‘wheelchair bound’ or do they say ‘wheelchair user’? 'Cripple', 'handicap','invalid'…. all no go’s. If you are worried about the language you’re using then it is always okay to ask
Credit to Josh, Lexi, Kira and Rian