Share your awkward moments

On the Scope blog we regularly hear from people about attitudes to disability. It can be serious. But more often than not it’s just a bit awkward – what you could call innocent ignorance.

We want to shine a light on the awkwardness that many people feel about disability, and want to hear from you.

Have you been in an awkward situation?

You can share your awkward stories with us in the comments section below, with the hashtag #EndTheAwkward, or email us at awkward@scope.org.uk.

We’ll share them online – so let us know if you want to be anonymous.

Some of our favourites so far

“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!”

“I was in a newsagents. a guy was silently hovering behind me, when suddenly without a word he grabbed hold of my chair and wheeled me to the opposite end of the magazine rack! Turns out i was in the way of his mags, but who knew! Haha!”

Share your experiences with us in the comments section below, with the hashtag #EndTheAwkward, or email us at awkward@scope.org.uk

18 thoughts on “Share your awkward moments”

  1. I’ve been living in England for nearly 14 years so my ears are “kinda tuned out” from the shall we say, strong “Northern Irish accent” I grew up with to the point where I rarely go out without mum/dad with me. A few years ago I got momentarily separated from mum at Tesco’s and bumped into her cousin and her hubby. She recognized me and we started chatting: it got a bit embarrassing for her hubby & self as I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but could understand her perfectly, she ended up having to repeat everything he said until mum turned up. (NB: Mum’s cousin was profoundly deaf and had associated speech difficulties)

  2. I take my 2 year old disabled son Stanley to a “50+ & disabled” swimming session. One of the 50+ ladies approached me to tell me we shouldn’t be in the pool. When I explained my son is disabled she replied “yes but he’s not over 50”

  3. I haven’t been in this situation yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s coming soon.

    My daughter is just about to turn 3. I expect that she will either a) make loud public comments about, or b) want to ask questions of, someone who is visibly disabled.

    Any advice on how to handle this in a respectful way for all concerned would be accepted gratefully.

    1. Hi, I am a wheelchair user. sometimes i walk short distances with crutches. i get small children asking questions . Personally i prefer it if parents allow their child to ask me questions. i smile and answer the questions and if the parents are ok with it i allow the child to play with the horn on my wheelchair. and i show them how it works. .
      If the parent looks as if they are uncomfortable i talk to the parent and ask if they mind if i answer their childs questions. I feel very uncomfortable if parents stop their children from answering my questions.

    2. Everybody is different and feels different about how children are around us. I’m 34 and for many years I’ve had children staring at me because I use various walking aids (scooter / walking sticks / wheelchair/ wheely-tripod). I find it lovely to be honest! Pulling them away (embarrassed) and telling them not to stare is a response by many, many parents. But wouldn’t this be best time to educate your child?

      Children are naturally inquisitive and I realised early on that children are always going to look and try to process anything in life that they have never come across before. Seeing a younger person (me) with sticks or a wheely-frame is different for them to having seen their grandparents or older people with walking aids, so they will naturally stare and try to process their thoughts around why I may visually look a bit different to someone they have seen before using aids, though parents often become a little flustered and feel embarrassed that their child is staring or asking questions. It’s OK!!

      I cannot speak on behalf of everybody with physical differences, I can only give my personal view. Whilst parents may feel embarrassed, sometimes it can also feel a little bit uncomfortable for us too! Children are children and as adults, we have a responsibility to educate our children now so that we can all work together towards ending the awkwardness for these children as they grown up! #EndtheAwkward

      I always try to manage the situation by first saying to Mum / Dad, “Oh, don’t worry!” and then letting the children look at me. Then I calmy explain that I struggle a little when I walk and sometimes I am a bit wobbly on my feet so I use whatever aids I have to help me walk. Quite often, a child will respond with “Nanny has sticks” or similar… Great! Sometimes if a child is a little more curious, I will reduce the length of my sticks right down to little-person size and let them have a go (children always love this and try to hop around a bit or pretend to limp!). Again, I find this quite amusing but that’s not to say everyone would?

      If I’m on my mobility scooter, children find it strange that someone as young as me (ie: not a pensioner) is on a scooter. So again, I will explain that I struggle walking and can become very tired and need a bit of help. Then I might explain the controls on the scooter and show children where the beep-beep button is! If there’s lots of time, ie: if I’m in a hotel or whatever, I may let the young ones have a little go, sat on Mum or Dads knee and drive round. But I always explain that some people in scooters can’t always get up and let them have a go – it’s different for everybody.

      It’s great to see the reaction of both children and parents when just a couple of minutes is spent to help children process these thoughts around differences and explain why some people may need walking aids. I am a British Sign Language interpreter and similar situations where children ‘stare’ due to fascination often happen. I’ve been with deaf friends that have loved signing to children to explain they can’t hear and show them one or two signs. Children seem to thrive on this visual communication and we know that a little bit of time taken in each situation (where appropriate) goes a long way towards creating a more positive view of differences and disabilities for everybody. We are all only human afterall!

      Best wishes to all parents on your journey with your own children.

      Let’s #EndtheAwkward for everybody! :o) x

      ____
      Twitter: @BobsBlackwell

  4. I was asking a Police woman which educational establishment a lad went to, who had assaulted my son. She replied that he was one of those ‘naughty kid’s’ that had to go to day release College from School because he was ‘thick’. My son who has ASD and learning difficulties piped up, ‘Well I go to day release college and I’m not naughty, i’m not thick and nor do I assault people, so I think you have some prejudicial views about those with special needs!’ She turned red and proceeded to play with her Walkie-talkie whilst completely blanking him. Pretty sure she wanted the ground to open up and swallow her at that point.

  5. I have autism. Because my disability cannot be seen, I’m often put in situations where people expect me to behave like them because I have no physical symptoms to “prove” that my condition is real to the average person on the street. Thus it comes as a shock to them when I start having a meltdown in public, often triggered by really basic, taken-for-granted things, like trying to buy something from a shop or getting a ticket to ride on a bus.

    More often than not they simply say “stop showing off”, when in reality I cannot help my reaction, especially when strangers talk to me or brush past me. My mum has actually said on many occasions that I “embarrass her” in front of normal people and she feels really awkward when taking me outside because she never knows when I’m going to have a meltdown (I can’t go outside on my own). According to her, my meltdowns somehow translate into other people’s minds as proof of her being “a bad mother”, when in reality I have a disability.

    I will also introduce myself as having autism when meeting new people, just to let people know that my behaviour doesn’t mean I’m “weird” or “disturbed” or “misbehaved” – I just have a mental health condition. But even then, by apparently “announcing” my condition to people, I also manage to embarrass my mum with that too. It’s like I should just be expected to keep quiet about my autism and behave like a “normal person”, when I can’t.

    If this stigma against mental disabilities didn’t exist, I believe I would be a more accepted member of society, and often in my depressive fits I will say that I wish I had some kind of physical symptom to show that I have a disability that should be taken seriously. Because obviously no one can see my brain from the outside.

  6. I went in for a job interview with a disability rights organization. I sat down at the table next to one of the interviewers, who I didn’t realize was blind, and accidentally kicked her service animal! I guess I handled it pretty well, because I got the job! #EndTheAwkward

  7. I love the adverts but scope you support all disabilities let’s do some hidden disabilities let’s do deaf asd ADHD spd let’s do an advert where a child is in complete meltdown in a shopping center one area where all of us mums have gone let’s not just concentrate on what we can see

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunately we could only do 3 scenarios for the ads, but we talk about hidden impairments in the web content (http://www.scope.org.uk/awkward) and we’re hoping to include more content as the campaign continues. If you’d like to be involved, we’d love to hear your ideas – you can email awkward@scope.org.uk

      1. My son has ASD. When he has meltdowns in public and I try to explain why, the most common reaction I get is: “He doesn’t look autistic!” I first tried to ask the people what in their opinion a person with autism looks like. The answer was of course a blank face. Now when someone says my son doesn’t look autistic, I say: “Funny, you don’t look ignorant.”

  8. My husband has cerebral palsy and when he was job seeking he was sent for an interview at a local company for a job he had done previously with the local NHS hospital for 27 years. He had recently been diagnosed as 70% dyslexic (which is why he was “retired early” from the hospital, although they did not know it at the time, but they put it down to ‘stress’!) When we phoned the recruitment agency for feedback following the interview, we were told (possibly in error) that the comment had come back “you didn’t tell us he was disabled”! What difference does that make? He was doing the same job at another employer for over 25 years!! I was incensed and got our local MP involved, but all that happened was that my husband was assigned a “disability adviser” at the Job Centre. She never, ever got him an interview and NEVER put him forward for any jobs! What does that say about the employers around Harrogate in North Yorkshire? (A staunch Tory borough, I might add, with all the prejudice that implies.) With encouragement, my hubby has taken Basic Skills English and Maths classes and now has 3 certificates to his name. His dyslexia has improved to 60% – not a lot, but he was so pleased when he passed, adding them to his CV. Imagine his disappointment when he has never been able to explain to a prospective employer the improvement in his reading, writing and maths!!! All the time the current government vilify the disabled, attitudes will never, ever change. I love him for at least trying.

  9. I was waiting for a train on an underground platform. Gradually, I started being aware of a guy standing next to me, who was making weird noises and movements, much like tics. I must admit that, initially, I felt alarmed as his head would often turn to my side, almost as if he wanted to look at me. However, I soon realised that his movements were involuntary and I continued to stand next to him.Sadly, I noticed how people newly approaching the platform moved away from him after realising his ‘difference’. I felt angry about the thoughtlessness of these people, who did not care about his feelings and whether he knew it or not that they moved away because of him.

  10. My fiancé and I went to the cinema one day; when we approached the counter I stated the name of the movie and that we wanted gallery seats.
    The woman looked over my head and spoke to my fiancé about which seat numbers we wanted. He pointed to me, and I answered. She told him the price, he remained silent and I handed over my disabled card and paid the amount. She then went to hand him my card and the tickets and told him which theatre number we were in. He responded by walking away from her. Awkward moment when her hand is above my head and I’m staring up at her.
    I calmly told her that I don’t bite, I may be in a wheelchair but can still communicate fine. I removed my items from her hand, spun my chair 180 and rolled on my back wheels to my partner. He was angry, I was in stitches.
    Probably one of the most embarrassing moments for me, but getting angry at ignorance just makes the ignorant more fearful.
    I’ve been sworn at, attacked, turned down for lab jobs (despite managing fine in uni labs and being able to explain safety measures that cost nothing to the company), talked down to and point blank ignored. But if I can educate 1 person then they might mention it to others they know and an idea can spread.

  11. People have thought that I have more disabilities than first thought , just by looking at me. I was in my local Tescos in the village where I live and a boy with down’s syndrome thought I was like him and he continued to stare at me like all children do whenever I’m out in towns. The mother felt bad as she explained to him that I didn’t have a disability like his.

  12. I used to ride the same city bus with a blind woman. She knew her stop and always knew where to cross the street, wait for the bus, etc. But one day the bus had to take a detour, and she was completely lost. I was the only person who could help her to the temporary spot. But I was Captain Awkward and the whole league of awkwardness in doing so. Lucky for me she was very patient and told me exactly what I did wrong and how to help her (or anybody else like her) if it ever happened again.

  13. #endtheawkward I have cerebral palsy with mobility restrictions someone once said to me that I wont be able to give birth naturally when I have children and would have to have a C-Section, I had my 2nd baby NATURALLY with no problems and labored only 13 hours, 12 weeks ago!!!

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