Remember This When You Ask Someone About Their Disability

Beth Anne
woman focusing on conversation with another person.

I use a walker.

I am clinically underweight.

I move slowly.

My disability is very obvious when you see me.

I am also someone who, having worked retail until I became a social worker, will and do talk to anyone. I smile at people at the gas station. I say hello to small children who look at the walker for a while. People, whether they’re strangers or people I see around town, ask me about the walker.

I am open to answering the questions, but my answer is not going to be what people expect. I wasn’t in a car accident. It’s not a life- long disability. It’s not the same reason your aunt, neighbor, or person from church has a walker.

I am unable to walk unassisted due to malnutrition. And that’s what I will tell you.

People often respond to this with “that can’t be right.” “Are you sure?” “I didn’t think people really got that.”

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I just smile and nod. I am 100 percent sure of what multiple doctors have told me. Yes, I know that it’s rare, and yes, people are still dealing with it.

I don’t give people the long story, and I don’t educate them on malnutrition in
adults in the United States.

It’s not my job to convince people my rare illness is real.

It’s not my job to educate people about the number of adults dealing with
malnutrition in America.

Here’s what you may not understand:

It’s exhausting, and at times, talking about my disability is the absolute last thing I want to do.

When you ask someone about their disability, please realize how hard it might be for them to discuss it with you.

When they tell you about their disability, please don’t tell them they don’t know what they
are talking about.

Instead, believe them and support them however you can.

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