Tag Archives: awkward

“I hate it when people fake” – and other things you hear as a part time wheelchair user

Chloe is a student and blogger, creator of Life as a Cerebral Palsy student and an Ambassador for CP Teens. 

She has mild cerebral palsy, seizures and sometimes uses a wheelchair. For End the Awkward, she talks about some of the awkward moments this brings and how a balance of education and humour is the way to improve attitudes.

People often think I’m drunk

I’ve had various nights out where people thought I was completely wasted. I have cerebral palsy but I can walk unaided, with my stick. On a night out I don’t tend to wear my splints. I probably look ‘normal’ when I’m sat down and when I stand up people are shocked. People assume that, because I’m on a night out with friends, I’m drunk, when actually I can’t drink a lot with the medication I’m on anyway. At most, I might be a bit tipsy but bar staff will say “Oh you’ve had one too many”.

I tend to go one of two ways – I either make a joke, like “Oh yeah I guess I am… wonder why I’ve got this stick though” or I just say “Well actually I have cerebral palsy, I’m not drunk”. To which they’re usually like “oops”.

Misconceptions about wheelchair-users

Once, I was out clothes shopping with friends and I was in my wheelchair. My friends went one way to look at something and I was looking at a dress. It was on a higher hanger so I was leaning forward, not even standing up, just reaching and this woman looked at me and said “Ugh I hate it when people fake.” I was thinking “What?!” and obviously my friends weren’t there to back me up. I said “Excuse me?” and she said “Well you know, all these people pretending” and I said “Do you know what a part time wheelchair user is?” and she still didn’t believe me. I was just a bit speechless so I just went in the opposite direction.

Should we carry you down the stairs?

I’ve been at a restaurant where there were stairs to go down and the waiter came over like “We could carry you down the stairs?” so I said “I’ve got my stick, I can get down myself if that’s okay” and he just stared at me. I was like “I can walk. I may be exhausted by the time I get to the table but then I can sit down for the meal and I’ll be fine. And he was like “Oh… okay… so do you want me to carry your chair” and I said, “Well yes, that would be very helpful”. I’m amazed by how many people still think you either use a wheelchair all the time or you don’t, or you can either walk or you can’t.

Photo of Chloe in her wheelchair, wearing her leg splints

Fear of the unknown

Because I also have seizures I get avoided quite a bit – people don’t want you to go unconscious on them! It can happen anywhere, like in the middle of busy city centres! There can be warning signs but it varies. I have three different kinds of epilepsy. It can range from “Sit me down now, I’m about to pass out” to no warning whatsoever and I’ll just fall.

I definitely think it’s more a fear of the unknown that anything else. People aren’t sure what to do if it happens so they don’t want to be in that situation. There are so many different kinds of seizures. People think about the ‘typical seizure’ but a lot of mine aren’t like that. So they don’t really know what’s going on. Their instant reaction is to call an ambulance or stare at me, neither of which is helpful. I rarely need medical intervention.

There’s no need to avoid me though. Once I collapsed on one of my friends and she wasn’t sure what to do but I came round and it was fine. She knew that I had seizures but she’d never actually seen one until then. She just joked “A warning would have been nice!” and now she’s used to it.

Ending the Awkward

I think you have to use it as an opportunity to educate people but maybe with a slightly humorous twist. You don’t want to be too serious because I think they’ll just go “Right I’m avoiding doing that again ever in my life”  but if you laugh it off too much they might not realise that what they’ve done is bad. It’s about getting that balance right.

To hear more from Chloe, visit her blog. 

Read the rest of our End the Awkward blogs, or get involved in the campaign by submitting your awkward story. 

End the Awkward is back for 2016 – tell us your awkward stories

End the Awkward is back and we want to change even more attitudes around disability.

Two thirds of the UK population feel awkward around disabled people, primarily due to lack of knowledge.

We also know that a significant chunk of that group feel so awkward that they’ve even deliberately avoided a disabled person for fear of saying the wrong thing or putting their foot in their mouth.

Paralympics host, TV presenter and Scope patron, Sophie Morgan, describes a time when this happened to her.

Disability is huge. It’s complex. It’s vast.Sophie, a young woman in a wheelchair, smiles during a photoshoot

There are so many situations that you’ll find yourself in. I always think I’ll find myself in awkward situations. I’m actually quite an awkward person myself!

There was this one time where I was sat in a bar, next to a guy, out of my chair on a sofa and he was chatting me up. Then I shouted to my friends to go and get my chair.

As they brought it along and I transferred into it, he stared at me, stared at the chair, stared at me again and then just stood up and walked off!

Got a really awkward story? We’d love to hear about it! Has anyone ever tried to avoid you or acted totally awkwardly around you? Tell us your story today.

“My life is pretty damn awkward” – find out what is making Kelly cringe

Kelly has shared her embarrassing festival tales, is on a mission to make the UK’s most accessible football club and even let us film her when she tied the knot last year!

Now, as part of End the Awkward 2016, Kelly is back to share even more stories that will make you cringe and want to #EndtheAwkward.

Have you got an awkward story to tell? Tell us your story today.

As a generally average British girl, my life is pretty damn awkward anyway so having a disability and using a wheelchair often makes it even more so. The hilarious thing is, it’s often not me that’s feeling awkward.

So many times throughout my life, I’ve been avoided, talked down to and just plain ignored because of my disability. I can make light of it now but it’s actually a really serious and sad issue.

At all kinds of places (bars, hotel, airports, restaurants) people just plain ignore me! It’s the worst! They will do anything from talk to the person with me, blankly stare at me as if I’m speaking a different language and other times just pretend that I’m not there! This is definitely the worst kind of awkward interaction and it can really effect your confidence as a wheelchair user.

It’s hard enough to keep the confident facade going as a young adult as it is, so when throwing a wheelchair into the mix, it gets harder.

Kelly, a young disabled woman in an electric wheelchair, smiles at the camera with her friend

Avoiding the awkward

I’m ashamed to say there have definitely been times where I’ve avoided situations or asked someone else to do something for me to avoid awkward interactions (such as reaching card machines in shops, signing room check-in keys when the counter is literally higher than your head).

I’ve realised, this is simply the worst thing I could do.

I’m the kind of person who likes to challenge myself daily, to the point of painful fear and regret. You’re talking to the girl who auditioned for The Apprentice with no business plan when she was 18! Sometimes I just love being uncomfortable. However, the kind of uncomfortable that avoidance brings is a kind of deja vu uncomfortable that on bad days you just don’t want to deal with.

The good, the bad and the awkward

Sometimes, when I’m out, people will just not talk to me. They will literally avoid talking to me to talk to anyone who is with me, whether it’s my mom, my husband or a friend. They will talk to them rather than me.

There have been times that I’ve been answering back and they’ve been sending their answers back to me via other people, like they are a spirit and I am using the person I am with as a vessel to communicate!

Now I know a lot of my disabled friends have experienced this and I think it’s one of the most common awkward and annoying moments that I experience.

But don’t get me wrong, using a wheelchair definitely also has it’s upsides!

A group of young disabled people in electric wheelchairs pose for the camera at a music festival. They are all wearing rain macs
Kelly and her group of friends at a music festival

As many of you know, I love festivals and I’ve been to most of them. I was recently at a music festival (I won’t say which as I don’t want anyone to get in trouble!) where myself and two others (both wheelchair users) literally just walked into the VIP area.

We weren’t asked if we had tickets or wristbands, we weren’t checked at all. So we spent most of the afternoon enjoying the hospitality that we hadn’t paid for. Thanks to the awkward security guard for not asking any questions!

As some of you may also know, I was an overly rebellious and not always well behaved teenager. At college myself and my friends were caught by the police doing something bad and teenager-like. The police proceeded to arrest all of my friends, except me, and took them to the station. At the time, this really annoyed me! Shouldn’t all police cars be able to transport electric wheelchairs? But now I look back on this and I guess it was a good thing as I got off scot-free!

A group of festival goers (some in electric wheelchairs) pose for the camera
A sunny selfie of Kelly and friends at a music festival

End the Awkward is returning and we want to change even more attitudes around disability.

Got a really awkward story? We’d love to hear about it! Has anyone ever tried to avoid you or acted totally awkwardly around you? Tell us your story today.

‘Are you blind, love?’ Why attitudes matter – #EndtheAwkward

Guest post from Elin Williams, a student from north Wales, who is visually impaired. In this post for our End the Awkward campaign, she talks about two different types of awkwardness she’s encountered.

Scope’s research shows that two-thirds of people feel awkward around disability, so when Emily Davison aka Fashioneyesta asked me to join in with Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, I couldn’t wait to get involved and share my own cringey moments…

‘Are you blind, love?’

A few years ago I was travelling alone on a train. I hadn’t long been travelling independently, and was still getting used to using my cane on a regular basis. Growing up, I always felt that the cane made me stand out and was reluctant to use it for fear of not looking ‘normal’.

Elin, a young woman, with her guide dog

So there I was. Along came the food and drinks trolley, and I plucked up the nerve to say ‘excuse me’ to flag the trolley down. I think this was the first time I’d ever done this – not being able to make eye contact or see people’s facial expressions has always made me  nervous of situations like this.

I asked the man pulling the trolley: ‘Do you have any drinks on this trolley?’

My inquiry was met with the scornful reply: ‘Ha! Are you blind, love?’

‘Well, yes,’ I said, lifting my folded cane from the seat next to me to show him.

The deathly silence that enveloped the passengers nearby let me know this encounter hadn’t gone unnoticed. I obviously couldn’t see how red he went, but considering the tremor in his voice, and how his hand shook when he dropped my change, I think he was a little embarrassed.

But he’d embarrassed me too. His smart-arse attitude made me feel so small and stupid.

A better experience

Only about a month ago, I and two other visually impaired friends had just got off a train and were standing outside the station, figuring out whether to get a taxi or to walk home. I had my guide dog Jazzy with me, while both my mates were using canes.University of Chester student Elin Williams aged 19 from Porthmadog with her guide dog Jazzy. Elin was born with a degenerative condition called Lebers Congenital Amaurosis and lost most of her vision when she was 15. A Welsh speaker, she is studying English Literature. Elin has written a first person story about her first year with Jazzy as a student.

A young guy came up to us and quite smugly said: ‘Did you have fun hiking today, guys?’

‘Those are some funky looking hiking sticks you have there,’ he elaborated, going on to ask us where exactly we’d been hiking, in Cambridgeshire, where there are no mountains…

It finally dawned on us that the guy had mistaken the canes for hiking sticks! We explained that we hadn’t been hiking, that we were blind and that they were our canes, whilst trying not to laugh along with his mates who’d witnessed his blunder.

Pointing to Jazzy, I added: ‘Yeah, she’s my hiking dog. I ride her up the mountains…!’

The poor guy was pretty embarrassed and very apologetic, but we reassured him that we weren’t offended.

It’s attitudes that make things awkward

From my experience, it’s much better to laugh at yourself and with others rather than get stressed out or touchy about silly mistakes.

Elin walking with her guide dog

What makes it awkward is when the perpetrator can’t laugh along with you, because they’re too mortified at having possibly offended you to see the funny side. It makes it much more awkward than if they’d just share the joke.

End the Awkward is a fantastic stepping-stone towards dispelling the taboo that surrounds disability, but I think it’s also important to remember that it starts with us as disabled people.

If you’re uncomfortable about your impairment and don’t know how to talk about it – and laugh about it – you can’t make others feel comfortable addressing it either.

A version of this story was first published on Elin’s blog, See My Way. Want to know more about ending the awkward? Watch our awkward short films, produced in partnership with Channel 4.

Photos courtesy of the Daily Post, north Wales.

I know you’re trying to be nice – #100days100stories

Amanda’s six-year-old daughter Lucia has cerebral palsy. In this guest post from May 2014, Amanda talks about how people’s attitudes can make life awkward for her family. We’re republishing Amanda’s story here as part or our 100 days, 100 stories campaign

Amanda and her husband Anthony with Lucia, Georgia and Roman
Amanda and her husband Anthony with Lucia, Georgia and Roman

The moment other parents hear that Lucia has cerebral palsy, we have to deal with their preconceptions about what disabled people are like. We get people talking loudly and slowly, and people saying ‘What’s wrong with her?’ The answer is that nothing is wrong with Lucia. She just has cerebral palsy, and sometimes uses a wheelchair to get around. ‘Lucia’s wobbly legs’, as our other two children, Roman and Georgia, describe it! You get almost pitying looks from other parents – and you know, I wouldn’t change Lucia for the world.

Support online

I joined Scope’s online forum soon after Lucia was diagnosed, and it has been brilliant. Sometimes, when Lucia is ill or tired, we do feel sorry for ourselves, and having other parents to talk to and keep us positive is a huge help. You can also pick people’s brains for practical advice on things like special needs statements, disabled badges and mobility aids. We were very unsure about getting a wheelchair for Lucia, but people on the forum said to go for it – and it has been amazing. It has really improved our quality of life.

Don’t see the wheelchair

A couple of times, people have said, ‘You know, if you didn’t tell me I’d never have guessed Lucia is disabled’. It’s really not what we want to hear. When it comes to disability, you just adapt – we don’t need to pretend Lucia isn’t disabled. Sometimes we get stopped when we’re out shopping, and people make a massive fuss of Lucia’s wheelchair – ‘Ooh, look at the little girl, look at the wheels, aren’t they pretty?’ I know people are trying to be positive when they give us extra attention, but it’s really awkward for us. We much prefer it when no one stops us, no one cares, everyone just moves on. We know you’re trying to be nice, but we would much prefer if you didn’t even see the wheelchair. Even if you’re saying something positive, I’d respect you far more if you saw the person in the chair instead.

At Scope we believe that disabled people should have the same opportunities as everyone else, so let’s end the awkward.

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories and read the rest of our stories so far.