Saturday, April 20, 2019


I've said it myself, many times. So please don't take offense when I enter this into discussion. I used to imagine, when I first became a wheelchair user, what kind of message I needed on the back of my chair so as not to be grabbed or forced to receive assistance. The ideas funny, the execution, never happened. I don't want a sign on the back of my chair. I'm a private citizen, not a billboard. And I notice when I bring up the topic of being assaulted, being grabbed, being manipulated, people come up with ideas for signs for the back of my chair. I get it I do.

Or I did get it.

I don't now.

Assaulting disabled people is acceptable.

Disabled people reacting to assault is not.

When that man came at me from behind. He startled me. He forced his help on me. HE GRABBED ME! In full view of lots and lots of people. I assure you that if I saw someone coming up behind another person with the intent to grab, I'd call out. I'd yell "STOP!" I think others would too.

But no one did.

In fact they smiled at him.

Saw him as generous.

Saw my angry outburst as 'the problem.'

And when we come to discuss it, out comes our sense of humour, our comes our suggestions for what I should do differently to stop this.


It's not because what my wheelchair is or is not wearing!!

But ...

Assaulting disabled people is acceptable.

Disabled people reacting to assault is not.

In the car afterwards Joe and I did exactly what many readers did. Joke about what I could put on the back of my chair to stop people.



I don't want to wear a sign.

I want the usual signs of respect that non disabled people take for granted.

You know, like not being assaulted, in full view of many, in daylight hours, outside a grocery store.


Jenni said...

I agree. In the same way as no length of skirt says 'rape me', no method of moving around (walking, wheelchair, rollator etc) says 'assault me'. The problem isn't with the victim, it's with the perpetrator.

There's some guidance available for people on how not to sexually assault people, from the tongue-in-cheek: to the more serious:

Perhaps there should be the same kind of advice on how not to assault disabled people.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

There is actually a whole hashtag in Twitter, #JustAskDontGrab in which people with disabilities are sharing stories about how people grab them instead of asking, and why this is bad. And educating on better approaches like, duh, asking instead of grabbing.

This is a conversation that needs to spread beyond Twitter, to reach people who aren't using Twitter.