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Seven inappropriate and stupid questions people with disability are asked

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Stupid things people with disabilities get asked

Anyone with a disability has likely suffered through questions that are - so to speak - truly insufferable. Some people are upfront about their disability and willing to share; while others may not have any visible signs. One should never assume. Here is a list of seven stupid and inappropriate things that people with disabilities have been asked.


Examples of aninvisible disability might include Crohn’s disease, heart problems, deafness or cognitive dysfunction. Disabilities come in many forms.

Seven inappropriate or dumb things not to ask a disabled person

For starters, never use the word handicapped. You don’t want to ask someone “what is your handicap”. Here is one example why.

Rob Jones is a Veteran who is a double amputee. He has run 31 marathons in a month. One of Rob’s goals is to be an example to others. Additionally, don’t we all have varying degrees of abilities and disabilities?

1. Don’t ask “what’s wrong with you”? The truth is we all have something wrong and with today’s technologies, adaptive equipment is designed to accommodate independent living for almost anyone.

Asking what’s wrong instead of focusing on what is right is insensitive and can be offensive.

HLS Healthcare is one company working hard to make life easy for those with disabilities as well as caregivers. A simple internet search yields multiple examples of assistive devices that make it easy for people with disabilities to perform tasks such as gardening, reading, exercise, mobility, driving, speech and housekeeping.

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2. “Were you born that way”? The question is personal and not everyone is comfortable discussing personal information, especially if they don’t know you. If you do have questions its best to say “May I ask…..”?

The BBC highlighted “stupid questions” people with disabilities have been asked. One of the top
questions described was “How do you have sex”? The question was asked to a paraplegic.

The same young man, whose name is Jack, would even like to see the word disabled thrown off the table. For many, labels do matter.

3. He was asked what he does in his spare time, so add this to the list of questions not to ask someone with a disability His response was priceless; he said he “long jumps”. There’s no need to force the issue about getting to know someone with a disability any more than you would communicate with someone without disabilities.

4. There’s no need to ask a person with a disability if they can drive if you’re unsure. Modifications allow people in wheelchairs, amputations, short stature or other physical attributes that aren’t your own to drive a motor vehicle. You might get a hilarious response that will only embarrass you. Wait to get to know the person you’ve just met instead of focusing on what you see in front of you.

5. Don’t ask a guide dog owner about their companion before addressing them. It’s inappropriate to say “where’s your guide dog” or make a fuss over the dog without addressing the owner properly and respectfully.

6. Perhaps one of the most famous and stupid questions is asking someone with a disability how they go to the bathroom. Just let it go.

7. Sarah Skinner is person with an invisible disability with a congenital heart defect. Sarah delivered a TED talk that is worth watching. Sarah’s brother has spina bifida and you can see it. He either uses crutches or a wheelchair to get around, making his disability visible. For Sarah, it’s different. Sarah shares her thoughts that all disabilities are the same; whether you can see them or not. Her heart defect is chronic and invisible. Never ask someone “Do you need that handicap spot?” Not being able to see something obvious doesn’t mean a disability isn’t present.

When you meet someone with a physical and visible disability on the street, in the workplace or at a social event it’s important to know proper etiquette. Never assume you know how to help someone. Always ask how you might help and try to avoid inappropriate and stupid questions. Get to know the person; not their disability, first and foremost. Be sensitive to the fact that there are people whose disability you cannot see.