Ride-Hailing Services Like Uber Are Terrible For Disabled People



Less regulated companies can shirk disability laws that taxis must abide by.

Ride-hailing apps are designed to be convenient, unless you use a wheelchair. While municipal transport systems add better and better access for disabled people, ride-hailing services have no such obligations. The shame is double, because cheap, on-demand transportation would arguably be even more useful for disabled people than for the non-disabled, who have no problem walking to a taxi rank or bus stop.

The situation is improving, but lack of regulation means the results are mixed. Changes are usually the result of pressure from the public and from accessibility advocate groups. Uber shirks responsibility for adding wheelchair accessible vehicles, or WAVs, to its fleets, says Carol Tyson, of the United Spinal Association, writing for Mobility Lab. His piece details how it goes so far as to ignore a Justice Department request “noting that the company should comply with ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act] mandates for accessibility.”

In an ironic turn, Uber is partnering with taxi companies to provide WAVs, but it’s less than surprising that the taxi companies aren’t happy with sweeping up Uber’s leftovers. Taxi companies, like other public transport, are required to provide disabled access under the ADA. Title III of this act says that “public accommodations and in commercial facilities” cannot discriminate against disabled people. Uber argues that it is exempt because its product is an app and a platform, not a public accommodation.

Uber application

(Photo credit Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

“Few if any vehicles in Uber’s network are wheelchair accessible,” writes Wired’s Issie Lapowsky. “That’s because Uber considers itself a technology platform, not a taxi company, and so it doesn’t require any of its drivers to have wheelchair-accessible vehicles.”

Other ride-sharing services like Lyft and Bridj are as bad, writes Tyson. Bridj says that it will try to accommodate disabled customers, but that they have to make an advance reservation, which defeats the point of on-demand transport.

As long as companies like Uber skirt the law to avoid expensive regulations, only customer pressure will have any effect. And as disabled passengers are in a minority, this seems unlikely. You could just argue that things haven’t got any worse for disabled travelers. After all, they can still call a taxi like before, right? But this ignores the effect that Uber and other ride-sharing companies are having on the taxi business. The head of San Francisco’s taxi industry thinks that ride-sharing will put taxis out of business “soon,” but already the squeeze is being felt. “In San Francisco, the number of wheelchair-accessible taxis has decreased from 100 in 2013 to 64,” says Tyson. In New York plans to make half the taxi fleet wheelchair-accessible are collapsing as taxi companies go bankrupt. It’s tricky to enforce accessible taxis if there are no taxis left.

This may end up being a big problem, since Uber’s drivers use their own vehicles. Maybe you, the reader, picks up the odd Uber rider from time to time to make a few bucks? Would you consider adding wheelchair access to your car? Or letting a blind person ride with their dog? After all, your car isn’t a public space. Or is it?

Looked at this way, it’s a surprise that ride-sharing companies manage to make any accessibility accommodations at all.

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you let something extraordinary happen that will change your life forever:  Let everything we do and say be an expression of the beauty in our heart, always based on love. (Don Miguel Ruiz)

PS: Remember to hold the one’s you love just a little closer and tighter this week (without expectations).


ripples of water shapes a heart

“People are really entitled to grow and to become the people they were meant to be,” says Margaret Nygren, CEO of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. “Would you ever want this kind of treatment done to you without your consent or knowledge? And if the answer is no, then why would one want to do that to someone else?”

By KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated PressOctober 26, 2015


mother with her child with a disability







BALI, Indonesia (AP) — Whether Charley Hooper has any concept of the space she occupies in the world is an enigma.

She is so disabled that her mother considers her “unabled.” At 10, her brain is believed to function at the level of a newborn’s. She cannot speak, cannot walk, cannot see anything beyond light and dark and perhaps the shadowy shape of a face held inches away.

As her body grew bigger, her parents feared her world would grow smaller. How would they lift her or get her out of the house? They saw for Charley a grim future of hoists and machinery, of isolation and loneliness, of days spent trapped in bed, staring up at a ceiling she couldn’t even see.

So Jenn and Mark Hooper came up with a radical solution. They gave their daughter hormones to stop her growth. Then they had doctors remove her womb to spare her the pain of menstruation. Charley is now around 1.3 meters tall (4 foot 3) and 24 kilograms (53 pounds), and will remain so for the rest of her life.

The Hoopers’ fight to get the hormone treatment — known as growth attenuation — was grueling. Although an increasing number of parents across the U.S., Europe and New Zealand consider it a medical miracle, others see the very idea of stunting and sterilizing the disabled as a violation of human rights.

A doctor once told Jenn he would never do such a thing to his child. Well, aren’t you lucky, Jenn replied, that you never had to make that choice.

Hooper family









In this Aug. 12, 2015 photo, Jenn, left, and Mark Hooper sit for a photo with their three children,  …

To hold Charley is to experience the sensation of dead weight. She is a jumble of uncontrolled limbs with a floppy head that needs supporting. Her knees are often locked and her legs held stick-straight. Her wide brown eyes roam around, not focusing but occasionally moving toward the source of an interesting noise.

Her parents try to interpret what she feels by the pitch and volume of her moans, and whether her freckled face is slack, smiling or contorted in a gaping yawn when she suffers through intense muscle contractions. Here in Bali, their annual retreat from the bleak winters back home in New Zealand, the warm sun illuminating her olive skin can trigger what looks like a smile.

Everything about Charley is a guess. Mark and Jenn dress her in purple because they imagine she would like it. At Christmas, they have no idea what to give her, but buy her the same number of toys as her little brother Zak to avoid his questions about Santa’s fairness.

mom with two children









In this Aug. 7, 2015 photo, New Zealander Jenn Hooper, background, plays with her baby son, Cody, an …

They had wanted a baby so badly for so long. The former high school sweethearts had always assumed they’d have children. They married in 1991 and began trying to get pregnant right away. But when years passed and no babies came, they headed overseas in search of other adventures. For years, they lived in the UK, working in pubs and driving forklifts to fund their travels through Europe and Africa.

After returning home to New Zealand’s North Island, they began trying again for a baby and were on the verge of attempting in vitro fertilization when Jenn took a pregnancy test on Christmas Day, 2004. It was positive.

Charley came into the world floppy and not breathing. Midwives bungled their attempts to resuscitate her, and by the time specialists arrived, she had been deprived of adequate oxygen for nearly an hour. Her brain was left irreversibly damaged.

The first few months were misery. Charley screamed around the clock.

They waited for that moment parents rhapsodize about — when your baby first looks into your eyes. But Charley’s eyes rolled aimlessly in their sockets.

After five months, doctors delivered the diagnosis: Infantile spasms, a severe form of epilepsy. The chances of her ever walking or talking were virtually nil. And she was blind.

Charley suffered constant seizures, and vomited everything up. Cerebral palsy weakened her throat muscles, making every swallow potentially lethal. Jenn and Mark barely slept, checking her throughout the night to ensure she hadn’t choked to death. There were dark moments when they wondered whether it might be better for her if she did die.

Valium helped quiet her screams. And they found other ways to soothe her: bouncing her on their knees, giving her warm baths. But eventually, they knew she would be too big to hold or lift from the tub. In a life of so few joys, what then?


mom holding her daughter












In this Aug. 7, 2015 photo, Jenn Hooper holds her daughter Charley in Bali, Indonesia. Jenn has spen …

Jenn found an answer to their dilemma in a newspaper article about a severely disabled Seattle girl called Ashley.

This first case of growth attenuation on a disabled child popped up in a medical journal in 2006. Ashley’s parents wanted her to remain small enough to participate in the family’s activities as she grew up. So doctors began giving her high doses of estrogen via skin patches, pushing her body into early puberty, accelerating the fusion of her bones and curtailing her height.

The most controversial part of the “Ashley Treatment” was the removal of her uterus and breast buds. Her parents wanted to eliminate the pain of periods and the risk of pregnancy if she was ever abused, along with the discomfort of breasts since she spent so much time lying down and strapped into wheelchairs.

Growth attenuation, which refers only to the hormone treatment, is in itself not new. In the 1950s and ’60s, doctors occasionally gave hormones to girls who were expected to grow very tall. And the debate over Ashley’s hysterectomy and breast bud removal was a familiar one, given the early 20th century era of eugenics that saw tens of thousands of disabled people forcibly sterilized to prevent them from reproducing. In 2013, the United Nations dubbed the sterilization of the disabled without their consent “an increasingly global problem,” and last year the World Health Organization demanded an end to it.

What is newer is the idea of stunting disabled children to ostensibly improve their lives.

More and more doctors have received requests for the treatment. A recent survey of the Pediatric Endocrine Society, most of whose members are in the U.S., showed that 32 of 284 respondents have prescribed growth-stunting hormones to at least one disabled child.

“As more people do it, it’s less weird, it’s less freaky,” says Norman Fost, a bioethicist who supports the practice. “There’s comfort in numbers.”

But it is by no means widely accepted. Many doctors have refused to prescribe the treatment, and those who do tend to do so quietly.

Gary Butler, chairman of the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology’s clinical practice committee, feels there is no need to stunt the growth of severely disabled children because they often enter puberty early, which naturally leaves them smaller.

child laying down with sunglasses on









In this June 29, 2015 photo, New Zealander Charley Hooper lies on a sun lounger in Bali, Indonesia.  …

“We would never, ever resort to these invasive treatments,” Butler says. “It’s completely unnecessary and I think it’s important that one upholds the dignity and the rights of young people with a learning disability and physical disability.”

The public, too, often reacts to the treatment with everything from unease to revulsion. After all, in many families, growth is about so much more than size. It is the bittersweet marker of the passage of childhood, measured in the timeworn practice of pencil markings on a wall, celebrated and mourned by visiting aunts and uncles who cry, “Look how big you’ve gotten!” Growth is considered a given.

“People are really entitled to grow and to become the people they were meant to be,” says Margaret Nygren, CEO of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. “Would you ever want this kind of treatment done to you without your consent or knowledge? And if the answer is no, then why would one want to do that to someone else?”

Yet for Charley’s parents, that question is moot, because they have never been able to ask for her consent on anything. They have always had to imagine the person who exists inside her broken body, and what that person would want.

Like most parents, they believe their daughter would want an extraordinary life. So in many ways, it comes down to this: What makes a life worth living, and what is a life worth?

To Jenn, a person’s life is a collection of experiences, stories and memories. Charley can’t make those for herself, so her parents wanted to make them for her — from taking her sledding to traveling the world. But that meant keeping her small enough to go along for the ride.

The choice they made for Charley, they say, was a choice made out of love.

“We haven’t stopped her doing anything. Growing would have stopped her doing things,” Jenn says. “We didn’t take away any choices that weren’t already taken from her.”


Growth attenuation had never been performed on a disabled child in New Zealand, but the potential for a fight hardly dissuaded Jenn. Tough, self-assured and admittedly stubborn, she does not respond well to “no.”

There is a fury behind Jenn’s drive. Her words are often brittle, sometimes brutal, when she talks about the fate that befell her daughter. She acknowledges she will likely be angry for the rest of her life. But anger, she says, can be one hell of a motivator.

They approached Paul Hofman, a pediatric endocrinologist at Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. At first, he didn’t like the idea.

“The whole process of making a child permanently into an infant and a small child seemed wrong to me,” he remembers today.

It took just one meeting to change his mind. He could see the Hoopers wanted to give their daughter a good life, and in the end he felt growth attenuation would help her.

“What I thought was better for her was to have a functioning family that worked well,” he says. “I accepted (Jenn’s) argument — very, very logical — that being smaller was more sensible.”

Hofman explained the possible risks: High blood pressure, blood clots, stroke. Then he sought an opinion from an Auckland ethics panel.

They dismissed the treatment as unnecessary.

“There are well developed ways to manage severely disabled people in New Zealand and to assist family members,” the panel wrote. “To consider alternatives raises the concern that these are less than ideal.”

fingers with nail polish on them












In this June 29, 2015 photo, New Zealander Charley Hooper has her fingernails painted in Bali, Indon …

Jenn was livid. Those “well-developed ways” were hardly ideal. Few public places have equipment to move disabled people in and out of wheelchairs. They already had to change Charley’s diapers in the car, or across the seats in a plane. What would they do when she was fully grown?

So she proposed a compromise: What if she got the estrogen patches from a doctor overseas and started the treatment outside New Zealand? Could a local doctor continue the treatment once they returned home?

The panel agreed. If Charley was already receiving a medication, local doctors should continue to treat her, for safety reasons.

It was the break the Hoopers had been waiting for. Soon, Jenn, Mark, Zak and 4-year-old Charley were on a plane to South Korea, where Jenn had found a doctor willing to give them the hormones.

Within days, the Hoopers say, they noticed changes: Her seizures stopped. She began smiling. Her stiff limbs became more pliable. Hofman says that may be because estrogen changes neurological activity and can relax muscles.

After six months, her breast tissue began growing, then flattened.

At 6, she began having breakthrough bleeding, similar to what a woman can experience on birth control pills. Concerned that Charley would have severe period pain like Jenn, the Hoopers discussed a hysterectomy with her gynecologist. She would never be able to consent to sex, they reasoned, let alone to pregnancy.

The ethics board approved the hysterectomy. Charley was 7 when doctors removed her uterus.

“I knew it was the right thing to do, but it was hard,” Jenn says. “There was sort of a finality to it.”

dad playing with children









In this June 29, 2015 photo, New Zealander Mark Hooper, center, plays with his daughter, Charley, an …

It took nearly four years before Charley stopped growing.


Jenn sits next to her daughter, whose body lies immobile near the pool. She tickles Charley’s nose with one of her braids and brushes the bangs from her eyes.

Jenn has spent years searching those eyes for some flicker of recognition. A few times, Charley has locked gazes for a fraction of a second — a precious connection, but one Jenn doubts her daughter noticed.

She has never bonded with Charley the way Mark has. To Mark, Charley is his daughter. To Jenn, she is more like a patient. That’s largely because she has spent so much time focused on Charley’s survival. She loves her, but in a slightly detached sense, the way an aunt might love a niece.

Some mornings, in the hazy seconds after waking, Jenn hears a child’s footsteps outside her room. It is always Zak, but in her half-conscious state, there’s a magical moment when she wonders if it’s Charley.

She and Mark still get up throughout the night to ensure Charley is breathing. Mark eventually quit his job as an architectural draftsman to help Jenn with the kids. They get by on a government-funded insurance program that supports at-home caregivers, and sales of a torso support wrap Jenn designed for disabled children.

Jenn has concluded that Charley has no idea she is her mother. Mark believes she recognizes them — at least, he likes to think she does. “Don’t you?” he murmurs, pressing his nose against hers.

This is perhaps the biggest issue brought up by those who oppose growth attenuation: How does anyone know what goes on in a profoundly disabled person’s mind?

dad carrying child












In this June 29, 2015, photo, New Zealander Mark Hooper carries his daughter Charley in Bali, Indone …

Sue Swenson raised a son who was quadriplegic, autistic, and couldn’t speak. He grew to 1.8 meters (6 feet) tall and 86 kilograms (190 pounds) before dying at age 30. He had a good life, she says, and still took part in family activities when fully grown.

Swenson made medical decisions for her son all the time. But to her, growth attenuation is not just another treatment — it is a mutilation. She wanted her son to grow up and be the same size as his peers. She wanted him to fit in.

“Even if they can’t speak, how do we know what their experience is?” Swenson asks. “What if they’re aware that they’ve been made different?”

The question of Charley’s mind is the one that pierces through Jenn’s wall of anger to reveal the anguish underneath. Because while she is certain she is right — that Charley is unaware of what has happened to her, and that she will never improve — she so wants to be wrong.

“I would be the happiest person in the world to have her come to me,” Jenn says, the words catching in her throat as tears begin to run down her face. “If I’m totally wrong and she can walk tomorrow, I haven’t changed her potential.”

And she does see potential in her daughter, even if her daughter can’t see it in herself. Even if her daughter can’t see at all.

Jenn sees people gain perspective just by meeting Charley. She sees other disabled children benefit from the support wrap she designed for Charley. She sees women helped by the advocacy group she launched to improve maternity care after Charley’s botched birth.

“Life isn’t about being successful, it’s about being significant. And she’s certainly significant,” Jenn says. “So many others aren’t, because they’re never seen. We make sure she is.”


In the first weeks of Charley’s life, Jenn found herself wanting an “out.” So she made a deal with Mark: She would give Charley her best two years as a mother. But if their daughter hadn’t improved by then, they would consider giving her up.

It never came up again.

Today, she can’t imagine their world without Charley. When the family gathers to watch “Survivor” at night, Charley sits with them. When Mark, Jenn and Zak splash around in the pool, Charley lies a few feet away. When Jenn rocks her infant son, Cody, she murmurs in his ear, “See your sister?”

When Charley was 5, she almost died from a chest infection. Jenn began to wonder what they would say at her funeral; they couldn’t talk about her laughter or her favorite games. So they wrote up a bucket list for Charley with experiences they imagined a little girl would enjoy, and spend their days trying to accomplish as many as they can. Still to do: Go down a water slide, be a flower girl, meet the Queen.

Would Charley actually like those things? They don’t know. But they believe she’d prefer checking items off the list to being stuck at home.

Though Mark and Jenn don’t believe she has any concept of her mortality, they try not to talk about it in front of her, out of respect.

“We don’t expect her to live forever. We don’t want her to live forever. Who wants this life forever?” Jenn says. “So we give her the best life we can while we’ve got her.”

From the radio attached to Charley’s stroller, Kesha begins to belt out “Die Young.” Mark lifts his daughter’s arm in the air and waves it back and forth to the beat.

He hums along to the chorus: “So while you’re here in my arms, let’s make the most of the night, like we’re gonna die young.”

Charley lets out a small moan.

Her father lets go of her arm. It drops back into place at her side, unmoving.


drain grate in pathway









The first thing to notice is the grate should be turned 90o The openings should be orientated so the long dimension is perpendicular to the path of travel otherwise  a wheelchair could get stuck in the drain grates. This drain has the long openings parallel to the path of travel. Secondly, the openings in the drain are too large. The narrow dimension should be ½ inch maximum. These openings are more than ½ inch wide.







Motivational Monday: Life is like Sea

Life is like Sea.

As vast as you can imagine; as deep as you can think.

Don’t waste time measuring your life.  You won’t succeed.

Instead, explore Life.

Reach for new harbours as you pass through different phases of life.

Make friends on each destination.  Enjoy your journey.

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you explore Life.

PS: Remember to hold the ones you love just a little closer and tighter this week (without expectations).

Life is like Sea

by Katie Sola


Employers really do discriminate against job applicants with disabilities, even when the disabilities might make them better workers, a new study shows. The results may help explain why unemployment rates remain high among people with disabilities.

“Unfortunately, the results of the study do not surprise us,” says Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network. Pure prejudice, litigation concerns and perceived accommodation costs drive employers to reject applicants with disabilities, he explained.

Researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research wanted to see how disabilities affect the hiring process. They submitted 6,016 fake applications to junior and senior positions at accounting firms. One third of the fake applicants mentioned having Asperger’s Syndrome, and one third mentioned a spinal cord injury in their cover letters, with a note explaining they could still do their job. The final third of the fake applications did not disclose any disability.

The researchers explain in the paper that people with Asperger’s Syndrome may be particularly suited to the largely technical and solitary work of accounting.


Employers were unconvinced. As shown in the graph above, applicants without disabilities were 26% more likely to get an expression of interest from an employer than their disabled peers. Surprisingly, the fake applicants who had a CPA and six years’ experience were less likely to hear back from employers than novice accountants.

People with disabilities face enduring challenges in the workplace. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 12.5 percent in 2014, twice as high as the 5.9 percent of people without disabilities, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics. “Unemployed” people are defined as people who don’t have jobs but are available and searching for work.

Decker spelled out a few reasons why employers might shy away from hiring applicants with disabilities. Companies are wary of having to provide expensive accommodations, although Decker says accommodating disabled employees is easier and cheaper than most companies realize.

He pointed out that people with spinal cord injuries use wheelchairs, so they need higher desks, a path of travel and wheelchair accessible bathrooms. Most modern office buildings are wheelchair accessible, and the other modifications wouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars, he said. Employees with Asperger’s might require a flexible schedule, but probably no other accommodations, he added.

Decker says companies may believe employees with disabilities are more likely to sue their companies,which he calls a “myth.”

So why don’t employers want to hire people with disabilities? Decker points to prejudice.

“There’s still some stigma issues with employers,” Decker said. “What’s it going to be like to have a disabled person in my office? Will I want to look at them every day?”


Motivational Monday: Know who you are

Do the things you used to talk about doing but never did.

Know when to let go and when to hold on tight.

Stop rushing.

Don’t be intimidated to say it like it is.

Stop apologizing all the time.

Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph.

Spend time with the friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down.

Stop giving your power away.

Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting.

Be old enough to appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it.

Finally, know who you are.

—Kristin Armstrong

Basically this quote is telling us to live our lives on our terms, not somebody else’s. We all get trapped living in someone else’s vision of how they want things to go. When are you going to live out your vision and follow your own intuition? If we spend all our time concerned in other’s affairs, we never allow any time for ourselves and our own affairs. On the contrary, if we spend all of our time only concerned with our own affairs and nobody else’s, we become slightly selfish. It’s a balance that you have to master, and the only way to master it is by knowing who you are. (Matt Manas)



red paint









The red paint highlights a common problem in this part of the world. Freeze-thaw cycles and the amount of moisture in the soil can cause buildings and sidewalks to shift. That bump is about 1½ inches high; that can be a trip point for everybody. The red paint makes it more visible, but neither the paint nor the rubber mats solves the problem. The problem with the landing is not as obvious. A level landing needs to extend 60 inches out on the pull side of a door. This landing extends 50 inches out and does not provide space required to maneuver a wheelchair.

Angela Duckworth’s research at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrates that the key predictor of success is not talent, title, wealth, or good looks. It is Grit: the ability to work hard for a long period of time toward a focused goal and keep moving forward in spite of challenges, obstacles and failures.



It seems like almost every day I am faced with an awkward encounter with a stranger, whether it be in a coffee shop, the mall, or even on the Internet — and more likely than not, that awkward encounter centers around questions about my disability, or how I live my life as a disabled person. I recognize that nine times out of 10 people aren’t trying to be inappropriate or make me uncomfortable; they’re just genuinely curious or concerned. That doesn’t mean their questions are OK. Every time I address this, people’s response is, “But I don’t know what to say.” I decided to help them out, in easy-to-use “listicle” form, of course. So, without further ado, I present five questions you should never ask a wheelchair user, and what you can ask instead:

1. “What is wrong with you?” / “Why are you in a wheelchair?” Typically, when I get this question, it is from a complete stranger who has not even bothered to say hello or speak more than two words to me. Starting off the conversation by asking me about my private medical history is never OK — and if you feel compelled to ask me about my disability, do it with a little more tact and respect. As a lifelong wheelchair user, I will tell you there is nothing “wrong” with me, and that my wheelchair is just a tool I use to get around. However, when this is the first question you ask, it shows that you don’t see anything else except my wheelchair.

What to say instead: “Hi, how are you?” I want to be seen as a person, just like everyone else. This is a much better way to start a conversation with a stranger than to immediately start asking about their wheelchair, or other visible disability or medical condition. When you get to know somebody better, it may be OK to ask them about their disability — just always make sure you do it respectfully. Questions like “What’s wrong with you?” are never OK!

2. “Where is your parent/caregiver?” I often get this question from strangers who assume I need help doing something when I’m out at the mall or in some other public space, but it’s super problematic because it strips me of my competency and assumes I always need help or supervision. I am a woman in my 20s, not a child, and I don’t appreciate being treated like I need a babysitter.

What to say instead: “Can I help you?” / “Do you need some help?” If you see a disabled person out in public, and it looks like they may need help, the best thing to do is simply to ask them if that is the case. This gives the person the opportunity to accept the help if they need it, or politely decline it if they don’t, and respects their autonomy. Just remember, if somebody declines your offer for help, respect that and move on. Do not try to force someone to accept help if they don’t want it!

3. “Do you have a license to drive that thing?” I get this one from people who think they’re being funny by making some kind of driving joke about my wheelchair. It can come in many variations, including but not limited to: “Can you get a speeding ticket in that thing?” “Can you get a ticket for drinking and driving in that chair?” etc. The thing is that these jokes are not funny, and I’ve heard them 1,000 times. All they do is make me feel uncomfortable and create an awkward situation where neither person knows how to respond.

What to say instead: “Hi, how are you doing?” Usually it seems that people default to awkward wheelchair jokes when they don’t know what to say but they want to say something. Tired and overused jokes just make wheelchair users uncomfortable and elicit sighs and eye-rolling. As with the first item on the list, a simple hello is a much better option.

4. “What would she like to eat/drink?” OK, so this one isn’t really a question directed towards wheelchair users, and that is precisely the problem. So many times when I go out to places such as restaurants, bars, or coffee shops — particularly with a non-visibly-disabled person joining me — whoever is serving us will automatically ask my companion what I would like to order. This is problematic because it automatically assumes that I cannot speak for myself and need someone who appears able-bodied to do it for me.

What to say instead: “What would you like to order?” The solution in this case is quite simple. Instead of addressing the question to others, ask the person what they would like. If for some reason they can’t answer, others will let you know, and step in, but you’re always better off talking to a person, rather than ignoring them and speaking to those around them.

And finally…

5. “Can you have sex?” / “How do you have sex?” Bonus points for this variation: “I’ve always wanted to have sex with a girl in a wheelchair — are you interested?” I can’t believe I actually have to write this, but I’ve gotten this question more than you can possibly imagine, and it is never, ever OK. I really don’t know what possesses people to ask questions like this. I typically hear it in clubs, bars or on dating sites, presumably as some sort of pick-up line. However, it is definitely not a pick-up line and it is definitely not OK. It’s awkward, inappropriate, uncomfortable, and sometimes it can even feel borderline threatening. Asking a stranger about intimate details of their life is not OK simply because the person is different from you. If for some reason we are in a situation where you need to know the answer to this question, I can promise you, you will. Otherwise, if you’re “just curious,” as I’ve heard so many times when I’ve gotten this question, use Google! I am a person and I deserve to be treated with respect. I am not here to answer any and all bizarre questions you may have about disability.

What to say instead: Literally anything else. If you want to try flirting with me, go ahead. Offer to buy me a drink, take me out for coffee, ask me to dance, or just have a normal conversation with me. But do not, I repeat do not under any circumstances ask me inappropriate questions like how I have sex! It makes me feel objectified and less than human, and reminds me that you see me as nothing more than an oddity or a fetish.

The most important thing to remember when interacting with wheelchair users is that we want to be treated like anybody else. The general rule when asking wheelchair users questions is to just ask yourself, “Would I be asking this question if this person weren’t in a wheelchair?” If the answer is yes, then go ahead and ask it. If the answer is no, then don’t. Try to think about how you would feel if somebody asked you these questions. If your question would make you uncomfortable, then you probably shouldn’t ask me.