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Thread: How do you make people more comfortable with your disability?

  1. #1

    How do you make people more comfortable with your disability?

    I just started a new job and I am in the unenviable position of being wheelchair bound and horribly socially awkward. I'm an engineer so the awkwardness is not unheard of, but it definitely makes it harder for people to loosen up when you're disabled. I can feel the tension every time someone says the word walk. It's ridiculous, but I don't know what to do about it, and it makes people avoid me altogether. Anyone had similar experiences?

  2. #2
    First, congratulations on your new job!

    Second, you're not wheelchair bound, you're a wheelchair user.

    Third, the only thing you can control is your own mindset. The more you can persuade yourself that you are a perfectly normal, valuable employee who contributes to the success of your company, the more confident and relaxed you will appear to others. This in turn will help put them at ease if they are tense or nervous about being around you.

    Fourth, time will help.

    It's not your job to make other people feel comfortable with your disability, but as you get more comfortable with it, things will get better.

  3. #3
    I feel the same tension around certain people when they say the word "walk" or "disabled", "crippled" ect... It's not a problem for me....I've been rollin for over 18 years and have no sensitivity to the words because I don't consider myself any of them. It's a problem for them and you can tell in the hesitation and change in voice tone when they say the word. I just look them in the eye and exhibit confidence throughout any conversation. I find that showing a lot of personality and joking a little about being shorter or what not tends to make people a little more comfortable over time. One time I was part of a recruting commitee and EVERY single person seemed to want to treat me as fragile or hesitate to ask my opinion during the first few meetings. I started coming in to the meeting at the very last minute so that everyone was already there....I made my enterance by saying.....Hey y'all HOT WHEELS has arrived, let's get this party started. Everyone laughed and loosened up. From that point forward I was nick named HOT WHEELS and FAR less awkwardness was present in those meetings. The crazy thing was that they were mostly of a certain generation and in HR positions.....CRAZY!
    DFW TEXAS- T-10 since March 20th, 1994

  4. #4
    It's not easy. I too was an engineer (QC) after I got out of College with a Industrial Engineering degree. Just try not to over think things and they will fall into place. As time goes by and you deal with the same people all the time they will accept you as just one of the other engineers.
    "Life is about how you
    respond to not only the
    challenges you're dealt but
    the challenges you seek...If
    you have no goals, no
    mountains to climb, your
    soul dies".~Liz Fordred

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    SW Florida
    Posts
    2,698
    I have found that the best way to make people comfortable with me is by being comfortable with myself. I know this advice has a ring of banality about it, but I still find it to be true. Sometimes the most obvious and common things in life are also the most true. People respond to confidence, and they can smell self-doubt.

    I have conditioned myself to act as if my chair doesn’t exist when I am around other people. Or, if the need arises (because I can’t ignore the damn thing), to trivialize my dependance on it. Sometimes humor is needed. That’s another thing that people instinctively respond to—good feelings and a positive attitude. Corny stuff, huh? Cornball but true.

    Yet with all this sage advice, you would think I could always get people to notice me and like me. That’s no more true for me or you than for any able bodied person. Sometimes we seem invisible to others; sometimes people don’t like us—happens to all of us now and again. I find that being more assertive works. If I raise my voice and speak with assurance, people find me hard to ignore, no matter how low I sit. But that just breaks the ice. You have to back up your display of confidence with substance. It may be better to be ignored than to open your mouth with nothing meaningful to contribute. After all, that’s what fools do—AB or otherwise.

    Be prepared to engage people, and let them know who you are. Let them know you care about whatever it is they are talking about or doing. But be careful. People can sense someone who is too needy or insincere. You may get rejected, but that’s one of the tough lessons of life. Human beings often fail. And people make lots of mistakes. Dealing with these realities can be empowering.

    Remember, only you are you. There is no other of you in the whole universe. And I say that counts for something. Something that deserves your confidence.

    Oh, and ditto to what everone else just said.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Leatherbee View Post
    It's not easy. I too was an engineer (QC) after I got out of College with a Industrial Engineering degree. Just try not to over think things and they will fall into place. As time goes by and you deal with the same people all the time they will accept you as just one of the other engineers.
    For the OP:

    Keep in mind that if you switch firms down the road you kind of have to start over which takes a lot of energy and patience. Kind of like now.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Katja View Post
    First, congratulations on your new job!

    Second, you're not wheelchair bound, you're a wheelchair user.

    Third, the only thing you can control is your own mindset. The more you can persuade yourself that you are a perfectly normal, valuable employee who contributes to the success of your company, the more confident and relaxed you will appear to others. This in turn will help put them at ease if they are tense or nervous about being around you.

    Fourth, time will help.

    It's not your job to make other people feel comfortable with your disability, but as you get more comfortable with it, things will get better.
    Ditto!

  8. #8
    Your screwed. Your an engineer. You'll think this to oblivion.
    Try shaking peoples hand and calling them by name. Winking at people that are uncomfortable is way too much fun.
    If you can lean forward in your chair when you speak to people. I even slid forward, as if I give a shit what they are saying to the king.
    They are wheelchair bound, you're just the advance guard.

  9. #9
    just be yourself..dont act like you have a problem, people will come around once they get to know you....making a joke about your issue can lighten things up,
    - Rolling Thru Life -

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    710
    BoyFallDown,
    How long have you had a wheelchair tied to your ankle?
    Rollin' since '89. Complete C8

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