Rolling Without Limits

Your mobility may be limited. Your voice, boundless.

Would You Like a Children's Menu?
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Would You Like a Children's Menu?

Attitudinal barriers may not be as easily identified as physical barriers, but for people with disabilities, societal attitudes may be the most difficult barriers of all to overcome. But what makes up an attitudinal barrier? One of the most common attitudinal barriers includes patronizing behaviors and language which can be unfortunately all too commonplace.

Examples of patronizing behaviors:

  • Patting people in wheelchairs or of short stature on the head
  • Praising people with disabilities for doing normal, everyday activities (i.e. comments such as "look at you!" "you're doing great!")
  • Calling people with disabilities "inspirational."
  • Speaking in a louder or higher pitched tone of voice as if speaking to a child.
  • Avoiding eye contact and speaking down to a person who may be seated in a wheelchair.
  • Feeling sorry or pitying people for their disability.
  • Addressing the accompanying person (friend, family, caregiver, partner) when a person with a disability is out in public rather than speaking directly to the person him or herself.
  • Asking the friends or family of people of small stature or seated in wheelchairs if they would like a children's menu or a booster seat in restaurants.

Depending on the day, many of us may put a brave smile on our faces and walk away or address the behavior and engage in a conversation. What do you do in these types of situations? Share in the comments!

Leave a Comment

  1. pftsusan
    pftsusan
    Many times people have said to me and will continue to say to me that I'm inspirational and I love it. I think you have to learn how to take an compliment. Once you do, It's very rewarding. Also a little bit of praising can go a long way. I don't think that this is patronizing. On the other hand, patting on the head is very annoying. Some do take that as a put down. Feeling sorry for. pitty, speaking down to, talking like they are not there; is not good.
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    1. WheelerWife
      WheelerWife
      Thanks for your comment, Susan! I love comments! It's perfectly appropriate for someone to give anyone(disabled or able-bodied) a compliment such as "you're such an inspiration!" if they are doing something out of the ordinary or for achieving an accomplishment; but when people with disabilities constantly hear "you're such an inspiration" for going to work, shopping for groceries, pouring themselves a cup of coffee or doing any such normal activity the comment is no longer a compliment. It then becomes a way of singling someone with a disability out. Adults who are told they are "inspirational" when they are just trying to make a living or enjoy a day with their family, can often feel singled out. In my opinion, a good rule of thumb is if you wouldn't tell someone without a disability that they are an inspiration just for being out in public, then don't say it to someone with a disability.
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      1. pftsusan
        pftsusan
        No. I pay forwards to able body people too. If you are feeling that way, when you just accept the complement and say thank you, most people will move onto something else. If they don't, they are the ones with the disability, not you. I do see what you are saying by feeling "singled out".
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        1. Daniel Andrei Garcia
          Daniel Andrei Garcia
          I guess, I understand now, specially the inspirational thing. Thanks for the enlightening post Susan and Wheeler. I have been so accustomed to seeing strong able bodied people not doing anything. You'd see them looking strong, but never working, just drinking, gambling, sitting down and then complaining that life is so cruel and unfair. For me what inspired me about disabled people doing "normal" things is their grit and their determination. Here in the city, when you go out you see some beggars and mendicants on wheelchairs. But hearing of disabled people who try their best to do normal things, like Nick Vujicic, and most importantly, go beyond what is "normal" that is powerful, that is a strong message.
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  2. Julie Sinclair
    Julie Sinclair
    I am so sorry to hear this. I work closely with disable Vets and most of them go home in wheelchairs. I try hard to make them feel whole and work with them closely to have a quality of life. I enjoy visiting the Vets I take care of in the hospital at their homes. We have many enjoyable evenings and days together. I can understand why you would feel like you do. I have never worked in a restaurant but when we take a group of Vets out for the day I have never encountered someone asking them if they would like a booster chair or children's menu. I do agree this one would be extremely hard to accept. I can not imagine myself patting anyone on the head. I do not even do this with my Grand Children. I feel like pats on the head are for your dog or cat to show them you care. Your children need a hug and respect just as you do. I am so sorry that you have met with such rude people in your life who have no idea that you are no different then they are. Before retiring in my office I had 3 co-workers who were disabled. One was deaf and the other two were in wheelchairs. I enjoyed so much working with them and to learn how to communicate using sign language. I do believe that all people should be respected and treated as equals. I was taught the very old school when growing up. I was taught to treat others as I would want to be treated. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It has opened my eyes to a new problem that disabled people encounter each day. I hope this information will help me to assist the disable Vets to adjust once they go home. We try and prepare them for their new life and help them to adjust once they go home. I know there is a lot of loving people in this world and I hope that they will meet you. Julie Sinclair I am at a loss for words when I read this post of yours. In my heart I can feel your pain and anger. I can understand why you feel the way you do. Being in a wheelchair does not mean you are limited to what you do in your life. You still have a full life ahead of you and
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    1. WheelerWife
      WheelerWife
      Thank you for your comment, Julie! Just to be clear, I have met more amazing people in life than people in situations like the above and while I have not encountered all of these behaviors, I thought this was an important topic to address by recognizing what some of these attitudinal barriers look like. What better avenue to bring attention to the topic of attitudinal barriers than rolling without limits! Attitudinal and patronizing behaviors are commonplace for many people with disabilities. Of course it's never a comfortable situation when these behaviors happen, however I believe that they often happen out of ignorance or the lack of opportunity to meet differently abled people. This is a great conversation and one that I hope more people with disabilities are able to have when situations like this do happen.
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  3. Christine Mulligan
    Very nice blog site you have an an interesting topic to discuess here. Voted
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