I am not going to teach you the ways of being social. That is something I have and will always be awkward and terrible at. I am going to complain about how people talk to people in wheelchairs, though.
There is nothing more frustrating than someone assuming they have to condescend to someone who is in a chair. There seems to be a strange assumption that people in a wheelchair are “slow” or are suffering with some sort of deficiency mentally. Yes: I am aware that you are just trying to be helpful. but it is offensive. There is a large percent of people in chairs who are actually incredibly articulate and we (of course, I can only really speak for myself) feel horrible when you do this.
Instead of assuming we are less than you (yes; when you speak that way, you are demonstrating a form of superiority), talk to someone in a wheelchair as an equal. Talk to someone as you would with anyone.
I hate that I have to write this, but the idea that people in wheelchairs are lesser humans seems to permeate the societal norms. Speak normally. Speak fluently.
It is VERY obvious when someone is doing this. Especially when we respond in a calculated fashion and the surprise on the perpetrator’s face cuts through an expression. There always seems to be a moment, an agonizingly long moment, of realization that they are following. There is genuine surprise when people can grasp situations. If you do this, you just end up looking foolish to the person you are talking down to. It may sound like this situation should be funny to the person in the chair, but it is not.
You are talking to the person in that way because you think you need to. We know this, and it is not a good feeling.
Again: I cannot talk for everyone in a chair. I know that when I am faced with the situation, I wonder if I do come off as slow. I immediately would have to talk to someone around me to make sure I can keep up with the conversation. I immediately start into religion, or international politics just to make sure I make sense.
PERSONAL EXAMPLE TIME:
I was tasked with this topic by Kelsey. She has always treated me as an equal and has exclaimed many times how she forgets I am even in the chair sometimes. She was actually caught off guard when she witnessed a person talking down to me while asking for directions to somewhere.
I was far from offended: it seemed like the person was just a patronizing neanderthal to everyone they comes across. It did not change the fact that Kelsey was completely flustered.
My reaction was, of course, “yeah. People are fun.” I really didn’t think anything irrational about the situation, for it was one I have dealt with before.
When it was clear Kelsey didn’t get my calm reaction to the situation, I started thinking. That was about the time I realized that there were a great number of people who were talking down to others while trying to be “caring” and “understanding.”
I get it. Oh good lord, do I get it.
I am in a very excellent position that I have people around me who do not talk down to me. It is strange, but they even view me as an equal.