Super Nice Temporary

Crutch / Library of Congress

Crutch / Library of Congress

One week, my hand therapist decided that my whole right arm was rotating inward. She made me a full length plaster cast that held my arm in the correct direction. I wore it for several days until she sawed it off. During that time, I learned our society is super nice to disabled people whose problems are clearly temporary: a sling, crutches, a cast. A woman came up to me and offered to hold my ice cream cone while I paid for it. This happens less so with a wheelchair or a twitch.

5 Responses to “Super Nice Temporary”

  1. mason writes:

    I would say this is a more complicated issue. First I don’t know that I totally agree regarding wheelchairs, I think people certainly are polite. I know for instance my mother who has a walker is great in crowded places, she is like a cop car, the sea of people just parts in front of her. On the other hand, having been in the disability community for a long time I have met plenty of people who have longer term disabilities such as blindness or muscle impairments who actually get angry with you when you try to help them unbidden. It is partly b/c they are frustrated and partly b/c they don’t like the idea that you are pitying them. Generally people with short term disabilities don’t have the same pitying issue. Moreover, in a lot of cases people simply do not know what to do or say. For instance where as when someone is in a cast and cannot use an arm people can empathize and know how that feels fairly easily, but where someone may have partial use of an arm or limp it is harder to understand as an outsider what to do. At any rate, just my thoughts.

  2. Mike writes:

    I had originally sent this to just Nina, but she thought I should post it as well:

    I think people treat injury as a phase, but disability as a feature. I don’t think people know how to relate to that perpetual unwholeness, at least in the absence of knowing the person.

    My aunt has been on crutches since childhood. It is such a non-feature that it didn’t even cross my mind to even mention it before my (not yet) wife met her for the first time. Her disability is a feature, but no more significant than her hair color; I was aware of it, but not conscious of it.

    In a public setting where interaction is superficial, a disability goes from being a background feature to a defining feature. I think people are generally sympathetic/accommodating/helpful but become conscious of it (ex: worrying that kindness will be perceived as insulting or condescending). I think people need to just be aware and not conscious of disability.

    Some people chafe at “special treatment,” some don’t. People mean well, but ultimately, it’s how those thoughts/actions are perceived that matters: you are obligated to respect the feelings of the recipient of your actions. It is not surprising that people would deal with their their disability in different ways; you can’t account for that. That’s why I say it’s just a good rule of thumb to turn off the overthinking, treat it as a non-issue, and be as kind and helpful as you think you should be. If people don’t like that, trust them to let you know that, and take it in stride.

  3. Linda writes:

    People just don’t understand and don’t know what is expected of them if anything.

    My big annoyance is I have a balance issue and sometimes stagger and fall. If I have my walker handy.. people are trying to help if I am falling. If I am trying to get by just hanging on to the shopping cart, people are making comment about keeping their kids away from the drunk lady.

  4. lundens writes:

    If you are spending much time on crutches, you should look with your PT at the Mobilegs crutches, they keep your wrist in a more neutral position than typical crutches.

  5. B writes:

    Visible disabilities versus “invisible” disabilities. Why does one assume that the ‘perfectly able’ person parking in that disabled spot does not have some, say, cardiac weakness. Or, neurapathy in their lower extremeties. (Yes, all real-world examples … )

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