Top 10 Things Not to Say to Someone in a Wheelchair (or their Spouse)

Hiking in GatlinburgLet me start by saying Matt and I are very open about his injury, and there's pretty much nothing that really offends us. But after this past year's worth of experience, I have learned a lot about disabilities and being sensitive to people who have them. If you're curious about things that are best to steer clear of, read on . . . 

1. "Slow down, you're going to get a speeding ticket!" Strangers always seem to think it's HILARIOUS to say this to Matt. We know they're trying to be funny, but it's pretty darn annoying.

2. "Has there been any more progress/movement? How about now? How about now?" During the first year of Matt's injury, a few people asked me this every time I saw them. Well intentioned of course, but I can't tell you how discouraging it was to say no. I definitely didn't need a reminder that he wasn't walking yet, or even moving his feet. It's hard enough to swallow that reality without being reminded of it every other day.

3. "I knew someone that broke his neck in the same place and walked a month later!" Everyone heals differently, and saying this to someone may offer hope initially, but after a certain time, you just don't want to hear stories like that any more.

4. "Everything happens for a reason!" Matt and I have faith that there is an awesome, though certainly challenging plan for us. But if you haven't walked/rolled in our shoes, please don't use a line like this.

5. "You look good for being in a wheelchair." Uh, thanks?

6. "I had to use a wheelchair when I broke my (whatever) so I know exactly what you're going through." Oh my. If only you could imagine what it's like to actually be paralyzed.

7. "High five, man!" So many people approach us when we're out and about to congratulate us for leaving the house. Usually we find it funny, but some random drunk guy tried to high five Matt at a wedding once. I shooed him away after telling him Matt's hands don't work.

8. "You're lucky! I know a guy that died in a snowboarding accident." We are blessed and grateful for many things, and things can always be worse, but this is a SUPER insensitive thing to say. 

9. "I bet you married him so you always have a place to sit down." I've actually had several people say this to me. Joking of course, but it's pretty insensitive. Sure, I like sitting on my husband's lap, but there's a heck of a lot of other things I miss. Like him picking me up. Or carrying me to the couch. Or even standing next to me with his arms around me. But hey, I always have a place to sit when my legs that DO work get tired. Sheesh!

10. (To me parking our van) "You don't look handicapped to me." In this case I was parking our van after dropping Matt off, but a lot of people that are disabled don't have visible "problems." Don't be insensitive! Trust me, we're NOT in it for the parking.

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1 Response

  1. Sometimes you just want to look at the people in their face and say can you please stop and think about what is coming out of your mouth because it just either hurts it either makes you want to smack them or even makes you want to cry sometimes it makes you just want to scream.

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