How do you feel as a disabled person when people stare at you? From a personal point of view, I walk often with a guide dog or a white cane and I always wear a special splint on my lower leg which has dinosaur prints on it, which I got to please the children. That novelty lasted all of about 30 seconds. During the summer when I’m wearing shorts my splint is very visible and people sometimes stare at it or my guide dog or cane.
I have to admit I’m the sort of person that doesn’t really give a monkeys what other people think, but the other day I was walking with my disabled friend in Marriotts shopping centre in Witney. She was wearing a very obvious electronic muscle stimulation device on her leg to help her walk. Three young guys in their early 20s stared at her intensely as she walked past with their eyes out on stalks and this made her feel very uncomfortable.
She said to me: “Those three guys really stared at me and I didn’t like it.”
Later on I was thinking about this a lot and couldn’t help asking myself the question – before I was disabled and when my vision was good would I have stared at somebody who was obviously different or disabled in some way? And the answer is probably yes I would have because I think it’s only natural human curiosity. But I think it’s important that people be aware that it can make people feel uncomfortable and it’s best to glance softly if you can, and not stare too intensely because it does make people feel uncomfortable.
On another occasion I was with the same person in a pub in Witney and a stranger came up and asked her – what’s that funny thing on your leg?
She was very happy to answer the question and didn’t feel offended in any way. I am the same and on one occasion somebody came up and asked me why I’ve got a thing on my leg with dinosaurs on it? Again, I was happy to answer the question and I think I would much rather somebody came and asked openly than just stare. Equally, I don’t mind if somebody comes up to me and offers me help. I’m not insulted by it and will often accept help even if I don’t need it because I want people to feel comfortable asking. I also don’t want them to be put off asking in future. I have spoken to many of my disabled friends about this and many of them feel the same way.
I would be very interested to hear your opinion on this and you can email me at the address at the bottom of this article.
My guide dog Peter has been retired this week and I begin training with a new guide dog called Ritchie on Tuesday.
This is going to be an exciting few weeks and months for me as we attempt to build this new relationship. I will keep you informed on how it is going.
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