A reader asked:
I heard that disabled people dislike getting sympathy, and I had trouble understanding that. But then later I was somewhat disabled, and received some unwanted sympathy, and I found it really horrible. I had a very strong feeling, maybe it could be called humiliation.So then I understood; but I don’t know how to explain that to people who haven’t experienced it. My theory: people like sympathy if something bad has just happened, but if it’s long-term then it’s normal for them.
I think the main problem is that people offer disabled people sympathy for all the wrong reasons.
They want to tell us that our bodies are awful, and sympathize with what they imagine it must be like to be in such an awful body. There’s not a lot of respect there. Or willingness to listen to what we actually experience or how we actually see things.
People like that want to offer sympathy that it’s hard to understand without captions, but no sympathy for how frustrating it is that no one ever provides them. They want to offer sympathy for people’s inability to walk up stairs, but no sympathy for how awful it is that people decide not to build ramps. They want to offer sympathy that someone is dying for disability-related reasons, but no sympathy for the fact that they are being denied treatment by ableist doctors.
People with disabilities are, first and foremost, people. And people who ooze sympathy are not interested in recognizing that.