The tweet above (in the headline) generated a few comments on Facebook that actually helped me express the thought a little better than 140 characters allowed. One person said that she was “sorry” people were so ignorant but that the woman “probably meant well.” Another commenter shared his own story while suggesting that you just have to take such comments “with a grain of salt.” I felt a need to elaborate. So I did:
It’s no big deal any more. It happens frequently, though not quite with as much gusto as this woman offered, nor the proximity. I was adjusting a machine, and when I looked up she’s literally leaning down screaming at me. But with the book out, I couldn’t resist the tweet/post. I was tempted to say, “There’s this new book out I want you to read.” My thing is, what exactly do these people think we should say in response? I mean, seriously, they’ve essentially made a point to walk over, stick their foot in their mouth, and make it abundantly clear that while they feel compelled to connect in some small way with the disabled person, they are at a complete loss as to just how to do that. Somehow, “Hey, how ya doing?” never crosses their minds.
One of my hopes all along has been that the book itself will generate conversation or communication much like yesterday’s interaction on Facebook. I agree with the commenter who suggested that the woman probably meant well. And, certainly, I offered the polite nod and “Yeah, sure,” comment she was looking for. But hopefully the commenter and readers of the book will start to understand that we need to go beyond thinking that meaning well but not quite understanding that people with disabilities deserve the same respect offered (or that should be offered) to everyone else isn’t enough.