Do you ever get the feeling that somebody’s watching you? Well I get that feeling every day, at least in public. That’s typically because someone usually is watching me. Is it because I’m so incredibly attractive that they can’t keep their eyes off me? or is because I don’t have arms and I’m probably the first person that they have ever seen to grab an apple with their foot at the grocery store. It’s probably my good looks, but regardless staring is impolite, which is why I try to make an effort to introduce myself. I figured hey if someone’s gonna follow me around the store watching my every move I might as well make friends with them and employ their arms to my advantage.
People are curious and they have a lot of questions when they see someone who has a disability they are interested and they want to learn more about that person but society is taught as one thing is that you don’t talk to people with disabilities. But why I’m not going to grow horns or eat your children, i’ve never yelled at a person for helping me and I don’t bite. Much! There are stigmas surrounding people with disabilities and the idea that they want to be left alone the misconception that people with disabilities are bitter people who are miserable in life and can’t be bothered with your curiosities. All of which are not true. I may have been born without arms but I am one of the most happy productive and outgoing people that you may know. I have excepted my disability as face value and I take on the challenge to live life to the fullest despite what others think of me.
I introduce myself to strangers who I think can benefit from meeting someone with a disability. That person in the store who might be curious about how I came to not have any arms, I look for those who are wanting to be educated and learn something from this experience. I introduce myself because I want to break down those barriers of those stigmas and misconceptions about people with disabilities because life is too short to make assumptions about someone you’ve never met.
I typically start off my introduction by saying “hello”, now I’ve got their attention. They may feel embarrassed at first for staring but then they offered to help me to which I graciously except. it’s important to be polite during this stage, I don’t want to scare them off with the crazy antics of an armless woman. I will thank them for their assistance and mention some comment about how “there’s not enough good hearted people in the world that would offer to help in that type of situation.” To which they would respond in some shape or form that they know someone or have a family member who has a disability or maybe they themselves have struggled with some form of a disability and that they know how hard it can be. At this point the stranger has hit the point where they’ve become a little bit more understanding. They may ask me if I live around here or if I shop here often? Still curious, not wanting to be rude and outright ask where my arms are but still beating around the bush. Here’s where the fun begins I answer their questions politely and I sprinkle and little bits and pieces about my disability not fully talking about it in a medical term but more as an afterthought to what is my life. By the end of the conversation that person not only understands me as a person and accept me for who I am, they are given the opportunity to learn more about my disability. I find that by introducing myself and making the first move people tend to walk away from the conversation a little more educated and inspired by my story instead of harboring those misconceptions that people with disabilities are not worth talking to.
When you make introductions like this enough times you begin to get used to it. This can increase your confidence in talking to strangers about yourself, improve your speaking skills and give you the opportunity to talk about your disability in a way that is more inviting. All of the skills can help you during an interview, by then you’ve learned what questions people are most curious about you and your disability and how to answer them in a way that makes people feel comfortable.