It is only to be understood.
I saw this quote by Marie Curie on google this morning, as I fielded my way through stacks of work. Not sure I would get to blog today, but here I am. And I've been thinking about this quote today as it applies to disability.
Yesterday I ran into a woman who pointed at my drink aide (a drink holder with a long straw attached to the side of my power chair, pictured) and asked "What's that?" This happens from time to time, whether it's a question about equipment or my disability.
I explained what it was.
"Oh," she said. "It looked scary, but not now that I know what it is."
I was reading a disability blog this week over at Disaboom about how a kid with a disability handled questions. (I can't remember which blog-if anyone knows, please let me know in the comments, thanks.) The blogger pointed out that answering questions about a disability can make others more comfortable and alleviate fear, but then criticized people with disabilities who won't answer questions, indicating they shouldn't complain if they aren't accepted, which was going a bit too far I thought.
Because I ran into another guy, who chuckled as he noticed I had cat hair on my pants. "Let me guess," he said. "You have a pet."
I chuckled too and told him about my long haired part Persian cat.
From my point of view, it's so refreshing when I meet a stranger who doesn't talk about the disability.
I mean it can get old, especially if you're out trying to concentrate on other things, to have to deal with disability questions. That's why I'm very reluctant to place an expectation on people with disabilities like that, because it can easily become a question of blaming the person with a disability for others' discomfort. Again. Which has been done too much. And it really underestimates peoples' ability to converse about other topics. Like cats. Or movies. Or - whatever.
On the other hand, for me personally, if I don't find a question too intrusive, I'll generally answer it because I agree that understanding things generally diminishes fear and it only takes a few minutes.
But I'd rather talk about pets, no doubt about it.