How Not To Be Awkward Around Disability #EndTheAwkward

Greetings Readers!

Welcome back to!

Today I wanted to do a blog in accompaniment to a recent video that I filmed for my YouTube channel in conjunction with Scope’s #EndTheAwkward campaign. For those of you who are not aware of this allow me to briefly get you into the loop. The campaign was launched by leading UK disability charity Scope in a bid to end the awkwardness that can surround disability. The campaign was launched in 2014 and this year it made a huge Summer comeback with many faces such as Warwick Davies and Jack Binstead…and little old me! It has been a huge success this year and something that I have been honoured to take part in. Previously i did video for my YouTube channel on sharing some of my awkward moments as a disabled person and you all had such great feedback on it. But, i wanted to turn the tables and make something a little more educational and a little less…cringe worthy!

So, today I wanted to write a blog covering briefly what I discussed in the video and how not to be awkward with a few pointers to help you feel at ease if you ever come across a person with a disability on your travels.

So are you ready? Then lets End The Awkward!

Watch The Video

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be offensive, merely educational.

Number One: Don’t Panic

The most important thing is not to get alarmed around disability. Disability is just an everyday part of life and you don’t have to feel afraid just because a person in a bar presents themselves to be blind or to have hearing loss for instance.Disability isn’t contagious, you can’t catch it. We’re not going to bite…well most of us anyway.

Number Two: Empathise, Don’t Sympathise.

‘Poor you!’

‘You’re disabled I’m so so sorry!’

Nope, what you should say is…

‘I can understand it must be difficult sometimes.’ 


‘I get that, it must be so annoying when tube stations aren’t accessible for your wheelchair.’ 

What you have to remember is that you shouldn’t make disabled people feel like pure charity cases. Try to understand where a disabled person is coming from, but don’t feel sorry for them or as if disability marks the end of their happiness because it doesn’t.

I have met a lot of disabled people and I can tell you the majority of them are completely content, happy and living their lives to the full.

Number Three: Never Presume

Never make sweeping statements or have definitive ideas about disability.

I meet lots of people who believe things such as all guide dog owners are blind or all people in wheelchairs were in the Paralympics.

Disability isn’t black and white, it’s a vast spectrum of colours and there isn’t a categorical example of how someone who has a certain disability is going to be.

Just be open minded and you won’t go wrong.

Number Four: Put Yourself in Their Shoes

One tip I would give is that if you are trying to understand things through the perspective of a disabled person. Try putting yourself in their shoe for a moment, I know this answer is rather old hat but it can work. Just imagine you have limited vision, or loss of hearing, or that you understand things in a different way. How would you wanted to be treated? Would you honestly want to be made to feel inferior or different to other people?

Probably not.

Number Five: Don’t Make An Issue About Disability

One thing i would suggest is that if you meet a person with a disability and they are not fazed by it then neither should you be. Don’t have fears about their capabilities or their needs if they don’t. If they seem to be getting n just fine independently than thats all that matters.

One example was when I went for a job interview and the employer asked ‘what would you do in a fire alarm?’ and I replied ‘I would make my way to the nearest fire exit in a calm fashion.’

To which he answered ‘but how would you do that when you can’t see?’

To answer this employers question and anyone else who might ask it for that matter I have a good memory and when i’m shown a route I’ll remember if forever, because unlike sighted people I can’t rely on my eyesight to guide me.

After all its that person who lives with the disability and they are the best judge of how it affects them.

Number Six: Talk To Them Like You Would Anyone Else

Which is a given.

Number Seven: Don’t Adjust The Way You Communicate To a Disabled Person

Honestly, If you don’t know sign language don’t try and make your own version up on the spot if you meet someone who has hearing loss.

Just like it will serve no good to try and shout at or speak very loudly to a visually impaired person.

You don’t have to change how you communicate just because someone is disabled. Of course if you personally know sign language for someone with hearing loss then go in all guns blazing. But, just speak as you would to anyone else and everything will be fine. Trust me!

Number Eight: Don’t Make Disability A Joke 

Now this is probably a controversial subject for some people. What I would say is that it entirely depends on the person with the disability and your relationship with them. My friends and family know that they can have a little verbal fun with my disability because we have that kind of relationship. But, if you don’t know the person with a disability, its probably best not to try and joke about their disability because you run the risk of seeming like you are being rather derogatory which would end rather badly.

Number Nine: Don’t Think That Disability=Inspiration or Helpless

Disability is not something inspirational in itself and neither are people who have disabilities helpless, innocent individuals incapable of doing anything for themselves.

People with disabilities can lead everyday lives and do all the usual things that you would do like go to work, have a relationship, perhaps they may have children, have friends and that shouldn’t be seen as something inspirational or a shocker. Because they are just themselves living an everyday life and they just happen to be disabled.

Number Ten: There Is Such A Thing As A Stupid Question

Now i am one for allowing people to ask questions and expand their minds. However there is a time when even I, liberal Emily, have to throw my hands up and lament. I mean honestly questions like ‘won’t glasses help?’ or ‘have you tried herbal tea to cure your disability?’ are rather silly questions.

So, my advice is, think before you ask.

Number Eleven: Have The Ability To Say Sorry

If you make a mistake just remember that the thing to do is to apologise and move on. We are all human we all have accidents from time to time and the important thing to do is the learn from those mistakes.

Which brings me onto my final point…

Number Twelve: Learn From Them

As Rafiki says from the Lion King ‘the past can hurt, but the way i see it you can either run from it or learn from it.’

So, if you make a mistake and you wince at the thought of it. Just remember if its taught you something positive then its a mistake worth making.

So that concludes todays blog, I really hope you find this useful. Please do comment below with any of your own personal tips for how not to be awkward around disability.

Thank you all so much for reading and I will see you all next time!

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Emily is a Masters Degree Student, Writer, Journalist, YouTuber and blogger who runs the blog and YouTube channel

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