Talking about disability with new people

It’s up to you whether you share information about your impairment or condition with new people. There’s no right or wrong time or way. Do what feels comfortable for you. It’s important to be yourself. Anyone worth your time will see more than your impairment.

Meeting new people

Talking about your condition with new people can be difficult. You might worry that people may not understand, will make assumptions or will judge you.

You might want to talk because:

  • your condition is an important part of who you are
  • talking helps people understand your needs
  • you feel people are being awkward around you

You might feel confident talking about your condition but you’re not sure how to help others feel more comfortable.

People will often follow your lead on talking about disability. They’re more likely to be comfortable if you are. You might try different approaches depending on the group or person.

Talking about your impairment or condition

When you feel ready to talk about your impairment, being open and positive can help people get to know you better. They might be curious and ask questions. You could invite them to ask questions if you think it will help. Sometimes you might need to be firm and honest in your answers.

You could try talking to other disabled people about the type of questions they are asked and how they answer.

Talk to other disabled people in our community

Talking about your other interests and what you have in common can also help. This keeps your conversation friendly and balanced. It also shows that while disability is an important part of your life, it’s just a part of who you are.

Getting to know someone first

You might prefer to get to know someone before telling them. This might be because you’re worried the other person will only see your condition or judge you. You might want to help them feel comfortable by getting to know you first. This could be after a couple of hours, a few meet-ups or when you become good friends.

How much you want to tell someone is up to you. Here's what some disabled people say about this:

"Explain how your condition affects you day to day, such as I can't hear you when you call me from across the room."

"The more I’ve learned about my condition, the more I’ve been able to be more open about it."

"Speaking to other people about how they choose to explain their condition helped me."

"Good friends will stop seeing condition or impairment as a barrier but just an aspect of your life. It won’t be the only thing they know about you."

"In the past I’d hide my impairment because I was self-conscious. I knew that talking to people first usually meant they didn’t care when they saw I was different. I’m now trying to be open from the start. Most people just chat with me and sneak a couple of glances. I sometimes drop it into conversation if I think it will help with any awkwardness."

Dealing with negative behaviour

Not everyone understands disability and they might feel uncomfortable around disabled people. Some people will want to ask questions but are too shy or will ignore you. You could try to start a conversation with them. Depending on their attitude, you could then bring up your impairment. Or let them know you’re happy for them to ask questions.

Others might ask you questions that are direct or even rude. If you're asked an invasive or inappropriate question, you could:

  • share something about your impairment or condition you are happy to talk about
  • explain your condition in a simplified way to help them understand disability
  • let people know that you’re not comfortable answering
  • explain why it was rude or insensitive

These approaches can help people understand without you saying more than you want to say.

Some people can make inconsiderate or offensive comments because they’re ignorant or they’re feeling nervous. They may not be aware that they are causing you to feel uncomfortable.

Many people are open to learning and will adjust how they think about disabled people. If you feel comfortable, talking about disability can help them feel less awkward.

End the Awkward tips to help others feel more confident around disability

The social model of disability

If people are unkind with their words or actions, that’s not a reflection on you but their own attitudes.

If you experience discrimination or bullying because you are disabled, this could be disability hate crime.

Last reviewed by Scope on: 06/02/2024

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