Some things to not tell a disabled person when you meet online
There are many dating apps and online forums where you can meet a soulmate or friend. There are some rules to be followed and this applies to engaging with a disabled person as well. For instance, some people might not like to talk about their disability right away and may find questions relating to it intrusive, even offensive.
That should not put you off the idea of connecting with someone you like but it is good to keep a few things in mind. Pulkit Sharma, a wheelchair blogger in Delhi, is open to the idea of talking about his disability, but there are some boundaries he likes to maintain.
I do not really have a problem if I have to talk about my disability to someone I just met. But again, depends on the tone and way in which they ask me about things that they want to know. Talking about personal things on the first date is definitely a no to me. Conversations like that are appreciated only after three or four meetings. If the girl is going to ask me the most awkward questions, then I would definitely say a goodbye. - Pulkit Sharma, wheelchair user & video blogger
So, what are the rules of the game when it comes to engaging with a person with disability online?
- I am sorry you are disabled - Many people call this one of the most annoying statements they have encountered. Because a person with a disability is not feeling sorry about it or himself or herself. They live independently and take care of their own things. This kind of statement stems from lack of awareness about disabilities and will most certainly lead to your being blocked.
- Do you have feelings? - Sounds bizarre but this is another statement disabled people say they routinely get asked. This is another strict no no. A person with a disability lives and breathes just like anyone else. Their physical and emotional needs are no different from others, so again, a very insensitive question.
- Were you born on a wheelchair or was it an accident? - Curiosity is OK but think about what you are asking. In fact, there are some questions even your closest friends will find it hard to tolerate because they are so dumb. And this one ranks among them. When a person says that they had a disability from birth, they are likely to hear comments like how their life was hard for themselves and their families. If it was an accident, sympathy is again offered. Not needed, so keep it to yourself.
- How did you come to have a disability? Again, high on the awkward and insensitive barometer. A wheelchair user, a blind person or someone with a developmental disability cannot really answer this and maybe it's none of your business, at least not on the first meeting. So, best to refrain.
“I feel the most important thing is that you have to be comfortable with the person," says Penav Mota, a blind student from Mumbai. "You know that in your first conversation itself. There are some people who come up with questions like 'have you been like this from childhood' or 'how did you get disabled.' Rather than asking questions, I feel it is best to start off with conversations.”
So, engage with a disabled person like you would with anyone you meet for the first time. Discover common interests and likes and dislikes. Who knows, you may just find that connection you are looking for when you keep an open mind.
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