Ever felt awkward around a person with disabilities? Not sure whether to shake the left hand when the right is missing? Or how to speak with a person in a wheel chair? Bend down? Stand up? Now there is help to End the Awkward.
I found out about Scope’s End the Awkward campaign thanks to a story on BBC News about speechless stand-up comedian Lee Ridley, also known as the Lost Voice Guy. Lee, who lost his voice due to cerebral palsy, uses a voice synthesizer to tell his jokes – mostly about himself and being disabled…”In case you have any doubt,” he says” I really am disabled”… “and, I am not just in it for the parking space.” Here’s a video of of one of his gigs:
Scope, an online disability support community
Scope, a UK based online disability support community, says it “exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we’ll be here.” They have initiated a campaign, “End the Awkward” to help educate people how to comfortably interact with people with disabilities.
Awkward examples of what not to do from the Scope Blog:
“I was talking to someone in a wheelchair with amputated legs. I was so overly conscious of not saying the wrong thing that I barely said anything at all!”
“I was in the city centre once when this guy walked past me. He was so engrossed in staring at me and my wheelchair, that he didn’t notice the lamp-post he was about to walk into…”
“I met a woman who has restricted growth at a friend’s place. She asked me if I fancied a cup of tea. I had a vague and distant memory of having been told that you should never offer a disabled person help, unless they ask for help. So I just watched her struggle with the kitchen that was literally over her head, until she gave up. I wouldn’t have hesitated to ask someone who was say, 4’11”, if they needed a hand with things out of their reach. But for some reason I felt like it was legitimate to apply a different rule when someone’s 3’6”. Cringing now.”
“Whenever I go to an appointment, I can’t stop myself smirking and giggling when the receptionist invariably tells me to ‘take a seat’, then notices the wheelchair and gets all flustered!”
Five pointers to get started on ending the awkward:
Scope has developed some pointers, they call “The Basics” to help get people on the path to being less awkward around disabled people:
- “See the person, not just their impairment. He’s Pete who likes pub quizzes and Coen Brothers films, not “that guy in the wheelchair”.
- Try not to make assumptions about what someone can do, how they live or how being disabled affects them. You’d hate it if someone made assumptions without getting to know you, right?
- Unsure or need to know something? Ask! Do it respectfully of course.
- Accept what the disabled person says about themselves and their impairment. Remember they know themselves better than you do.
- Remember not all conditions are visible. Things like epilepsy you can’t see by looking at someone.”
They close by reminding us that “Above all, remember they’re a person – just like you.”
Videos to show you how to End the Awkward:
Most helpful, I think are the great videos they have developed. Here’s one on how to shake hands with a person missing his right hand:
And another, on talking to a person in a wheel chair:
I am a big fan of this campaign as it is, once again a reminder, that celebrating the incredible diversity of human beings enriches us all. Thanks, Scope! Thanks. Lost Voice Guy.