Dear Able-Body

Dear Able-Body

These are in no specific order of importance.  They are all important because they affect me and I am important.

Please don’t label me disabled.  Have you ever looked up the word in the dictionary? 

The following is taken from the Thesaurus:

disabled  bedridden, crippled, handicapped, incapacitated, lame, maimed, mangled, mutilated,  paralysed, weak, wrecked, damaged, unfit, debilitated, impaired…

Antonyms healthy, whole, wholesome, strong, robust, fit, able-bodied.”


Strangely enough, I am able to relate to the antonyms far better.  Ironically, society views me as disabled now – but, I have never felt more whole in my entire life.  I try to focus on what I can do – which is a lot more than some (so called) able-bodied people out there.

Words have the most incredible power.  They have the power to heal.  But, they also have the power to hurt.  More importantly, they have the power to change perceptions, attitudes, ideas, thoughts and mindsets which, in turn, changes actions and how we treat the world and its living.

Please don’t “Dis” my “Ability”.  Don’t tease, mock or make fun of me.  That’s bullying!  I can do everything that you can do.  I just do it a little differently – that’s all.

I use a wheelchair to get around.  But, it is most certainly not what defines me as a woman.  Most of you see a wheelchair as a source of confinement.  But, to me, it is my source of independence and freedom.

Although I appreciate your kindness and willingness to be of assistance, please don’t push my wheelchair without asking me first if I need help.  Besides, how would you like it if somebody just started pushing you around?  I may be blonde and female but I can drive.  Yes, it is possible to have boobs and a brain.  Promise

Please respect my personal space.  Don’t lean against my wheelchair.  I know that your legs get tired of walking.  But, my butt is tired of sitting.  Wanna swap?

Please do not rest your foot on any part of my wheelchair.  Do you like it when people put their feet up on the back of your chair at the movies? It’s bloody irritating!

Please don’t hang your handbags or shopping bags anywhere on my wheelchair because you are too darn lazy to carry them yourself.  Next time you do that I may just thank you for the donation and tear off at great speed.  You will never catch me!

I don’t mind coming in at the back entrance but, if you know I’m coming to visit, please pick up dog shit on your lawn.  It’s difficult trying to keep my balance on the uneven ground as well as dodging the bogeys.  And it bloody stinks!

I love animals but please don’t allow your dogs to lift their legs on my wheels.  Hey, after all, those are my shoes!

I know that you are curious – and extremely impressed by my incredible ability to maneuver my wheelchair but please don’t gush too much.  It’s not that big a deal!  It’s like learning to walk in stiletto heels for the first time.  Besides, you don’t want me getting an ego too big that I won’t fit through the doorway.  And I’m not going to return the compliment by praising you on how well you walk or stand.

Disability is not contagious.  You may touch me.  I know that I can’t shake your hand (even though, you know, I want to) but, please don’t pat me on the head.  Save that for your dog.

Rather touch my hand or squeeze my shoulder.  If you are a single, drop-dead-gorgeous male then kiss me.  Quick!  And most especially, if you have the sexiest legs on the planet.  Hmmm… What can I say?  I’m a legs girl!

I love affection but a hug will do.  Please don’t ruffle my hair.  If you are not a trained hairdresser, I would stick to your day job if I were you.  It has taken hours of instructions to get my hair styled the way I like it.

Please do not stand behind me when you talk to me – or even worse – about me.  Don’t ask others how I am.  Ask me!

You can make eye contact.  I promise not to be too scary!  I also promise to put a smile on my face and to be sincere and friendly.

You do not need to speak louder or slower.  I can hear and understand you, perfectly well.  I promise.

You will ask me silly questions.  You are human, after all, and that’s how we learn. 

Hey Trace, nice shoes!  Are they comfortable?  Hmmm…

Please don’t die of embarrassment.  Rather just laugh with me – I do have the ability to laugh at myself and with others – believe it or not.  And don’t call me later apologizing for your stupidity.  I already know that!

My wheelchair does not affect my ability to read – or to decide (for myself) what I would like to eat.  Hey, waiter!  C’mon give me a menu!  I promise not to drool all over it – or you – unless, of course, you are a real dish!

I know it sounds romantic but, please don’t just assume that you can just pick me up and carry me.  I am not your baby!  If I can’t get in by myself in my wheelchair then I don’t wanna go in – thank you!

Please don’t stare.  Didn’t your mother ever teach you that it’s a rude to stare? Besides, I can assure you that no miracle is going to happen – even if you stare long enough.  Believe me, I’m not going to get up and walk anytime soon – no matter how badly we both want that to happen.

Please allow your children to talk to me.  I promise not to give them nightmares and I would love to answer their questions.  Hey, you may also learn a thing or two.

And finally, to all you lazy bloody bastards… find your own bloody parking!  

About Tracy Todd (Brave Lotus Flower)

Author of Brave Lotus Flower Rides the Dragon – an intimate and inspiring memoir of a quadriplegic. Inspirational Speaker. Teacher. Counsellor. Wife. Mother. Animal lover. Although I need a wheelchair to get around, it is most certainly not what defines me.
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18 Responses to Dear Able-Body

  1. Stanna Kyriakou says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this today. I am having a bad day. I am fed up of being called ‘strong’, patient, brave etc etc bloody etc! I am none of those things. What I am is bloody fed up.
    Thank you xx

  2. Bill Watson says:

    Hi Trace – Thanks you for your message on FB. I appreciated it. For the most part what you have written in this blog my friend Janice taught me when I met her. She taught me also to get eye level when I talked with her. In my ministry I took that a step further and get eye level with little kids – and on hospital visits. I don’t hover over a person in a hospital bed, but either gain permission to sit on their bed or pull a chair up and be at eye level. It makes all the difference in the world.

  3. thechantiki says:

    I just found our site and I am enjoying it very much. I use a wheelchair, as well. I love this list. Every single thing on it is something that has bothered me in the past. I look forward to reading more of your posts. I really enjoy your writing style. Funny at times, moving at times. Good stuff.

  4. Pingback: Who’s Worthy? « Tracy Todd's Blog

  5. Flutter says:

    Hi Tracy, I work as an architect in the disability field and constantly face the challenge of conveying the importance and the simplicity of designing for people with “special needs” (not a term I enjoy using but its better that “disabled”). Especially since we are all the same human beings. We have not so much “special needs”, as unique individual needs and abilities. I think society has a need to define the differently abled with how they view them – as “disabled”. It a huge source of frustration to get people to make that mind shift.

  6. Tracy –

    You had me snorting tea up my nose with this post. Brilliant and very funny. Top work!


  7. Noddie says:

    Hello Tracy,

    Some things I ‘knew’ just from one human being to another…. some, I hadn’t even thought of, so thank you – although I cringe when I think of ANYONE ruffling a grown woman’s hair or patting her on the head!

    Take care 🙂

  8. Tammy Naude says:

    Tracy you are an amazing woman i love reading your blogs and you most certainly do have a nak for writing, you do it so well!! Big hugs to you 🙂 have a wonderful week ahead!!

  9. Ina Bence says:

    Sjoe, this sound as if you are very cross!!. But remember the same definitions apply for the mind and spirit, so now who is disabled? Apologies beforehand for my Labrador when you come for tea, he propebly will mark your wheels he is so moedswillig!



    • Tracy Todd says:

      Hi Ina
      My apologies for coming across too “cross”. That was not my intention. My main aim is to share my experiences in the hopes of making a difference and possibly changing some attitudes and perceptions towards people living with disabilities.
      I think I will steer clear of your Labrador. *Laugh*

  10. Mareca says:

    You have managed to put a smile on my face on this Monday morning! Thanks for all the information – use it
    -don’t use it? Hope you have an awesome week!

  11. Anton says:

    “Please don’t hang your handbags or shopping bags anywhere on my wheelchair because you are too darn lazy to carry them yourself. Next time you do that I may just thank you for the donation and tear off at great speed. You will never catch me!”

    A gazillion years ago when the Reader’s Digest (remember?) was better at sniffing out your whereabouts than SARS,you used to receive Condensed Books” and shortly afterward an account. No amount of mails (way before e-mail!) had any influence, you received your next books and your next statement the next month…

    I managed to stop the books by sending them a letter thaning them for their donations.

    I can imagine there re a few other do’s and dont’s – you’re just so polite!

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