Out of the Mouth of Babes

Mar 12, 2015
Tagged with: Out of the Mouth of Babes

Over the 30 years as a person living with a disability, I have encountered many people who just want to know what happened. “How did you lose your hands and legs?” It is a simple question, in which I always give a simple response. “I contracted a blood disease.” However, this question can become complicated if the individual inquiring is uncertain as to how to phrase it. Regularly, the question becomes desensitized or sugar-coated.  

The most fascinating part is that adults seem to become the most uncomfortable and have difficulty asking. I am fairly positive the reason being it tends to be a personal question. Surely they wonder if it’s appropriate or perhaps they think the person will become angry or fall into a state of hysteria. It is always amusing for me to observe the reactions and uneasiness of adults when wanting to learn about my disability.

Unfortunately, many of these same adults are inadvertently teaching their kids the same uneasiness. They are teaching the same subtle uncertainty that people with disabilities are not to be looked at or talked to. Perhaps they should be avoided all together so we don’t have to ask or deal with them. Sadly, they may be shaping a mindset that suggests that some members of society don’t want to learn or associate with people with disabilities. This would take away from one of the most wonderful qualities that children have, the gift of wonder.  Not to mention the possibility of alienating two groups from connecting.

Here is my way of allowing children to wonder. Whenever I am at the grocery store or mall and I see or sense that a child is looking my way, while at the same time the parent is trying to cover their eyes or stop them from staring. I approach the child with the questioning gaze and introduce myself. I ask if I can shake their hand, in which they anxiously extend their hand. I then proceed to ask them if they have any questions for me. They always go straight to the point… “Where are your hands?” “Do you have any legs?”

This is perfect! This is all that has to be asked. My day usually turns into show and tell, but at least I am interacting with a group that wants to learn and that has no reservations in asking. The bottom line is we have an opportunity to educate a young generation on how to live and associate with people with disabilities. Do you like talking about your disability to strangers?

Author: Bob Lujano