Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Greeting Etiquette - an advisory letter

Dear Insensitive Person

When meeting me for the first time, please do not insult me 
by asking whether I drive and how do I drive a car 
when it is not relevant to the general conversation 
(that is not discussing cars or transportation etc.) 

Why it would be anyone else's business is a mystery to me.

These questions reveal your ableist ideas and expectations
that wheelchair users are 'the other' and,
either cannot drive 
or are not capable of driving 
(or perhaps shouldn't be driving (?)),
unlike every other holder of a driver's licence
of which I am one. 

For the record, the answer is: 

I turn the key in the ignition and just go. 
Like everyone else. 

(Except perhaps for those whose modern cars 

have push buttons or other ways to start.)

You are just another example of your curiosity overtaking your manners. 

How rude!

It's time to check your values, unconscious biases and prejudices.
Check your manners please.
Do it today.

Yours faithfully, 
in disappointment and disrespect,



  1. Argh why do people have to be so nosy and rude!

    1. Suddenly I am not a person to be greeted within the social context but a curiosity or science project to be investigated - it's dehumanising. What else are disabled people on the planet for except to provide 'inspiration porn' to the abled? (Eyerolling with that sarcastic question.)

  2. I have to use crutches from time to time, strange how peoples attitude seems to change. So sorry for your experience. Pam x

    1. The sad thing is that the person was totally unaware of how inappropriate and offensive their comments were. The questions themselves would have been okay had we been discussing how everyone arrived at the gathering or if it was someone with whom I've had a longer acquaintance. It's all about context.

      The difficulty was that we were also in mixed company and the questions caught me by surprise. I did not want to embarrass the person in front of others or bring down the festive mood by making a point of it so tried to make light of it and change the subject. I was there for a happy social evening and did not want to be someone's 'teachable moment' when I was already tired at the end of the day.

      If you have any ideas on how to tackle such situations, please share!

  3. I am so sorry you are exposed to such insensitivity my friend. I find with Little Buddy it is not those being insensitive but rather too friendly and commenting on how good he is doing and such. While I so appreciate their thoughtfulness it does not help us with stranger awareness and person space. They all have kind hearts it just can be a bit much sometimes. Sending you a hug!

    1. This is the thing - people are well-intentioned and don't realise there is a problem with their behaviour.

      When it comes to people with disabilities, there are many able-bodied people who have no sense of personal boundaries; e.g. it's not acceptable to go up to an able-bodied stranger and touch their person or baggage uninvited and yet there are people who think it is perfectly acceptable to touch a person's wheelchair or a pregnant woman's stomach even if it is someone they don't know.

      I can understand the frustration or exasperation you must feel when people are unwittingly undermining your goals or interrupting your activity. It can be exhausting having to deal with 'other people' when you are just trying to get on with your day and every second person has to say something.

  4. OMG. I LOVE your comment above about 'inspirational porn'. Yes. That! You are so profound with your language, and I hope insensitive questioners everywhere read your post. Perhaps have it laminated on a little card, and hand out to people at appropriate moments!

    1. My goodness Mary-Anne, I would need to carry a large stack of cards with a variety of different responses for all the ridiculous interactions that one encounters - some might describe these inappropriate behaviours as 'micro-aggressions'.

  5. Rude! But perhaps turn it back on the person and ask “What do you mean by that?” This puts the discomfort back on them. Perhaps also call on your friends to ask that question, as your allies, when they’re with you and these things happen so that it’s not up to you to inform the ignorant about their ignorance.

    1. That's a good idea with an open choice of words for when I have the energy to engage. I will add that to the repertoire and practice it.

      I don't think I've ever had a chat with my mates at a more purposeful level about being 'allies'. When I am with them, we tend to discuss everything under the sun but ableism (unless venting frustration) probably because I want to save my energy for more joyful topics.

      Your comment here might be a good conversation starter for that. Thank you for your thoughtful feedback, Sarah. x