Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What To Do When You Meet An Able-Bodied Person

Inspired by What To Do When You Meet a Sighted Person

People who have an extreme amount of energy, experience lower than normal levels of pain (or only feel acute pain), and move through the world on two legs are classified under the umbrella term "able-bodied".  The defining characteristic of an able-bodied person is that they are essentially bipedal for most of their daily activities, though other symptoms like reduced pain tolerance and an abnormally high amount of energy are also common in this population.  Despite their shortcomings, many able-bodied people can lead nearly normal lives.  Able-bodied people work, play and love - just like you!

How do able-bodied people get around?

Like normal people, able-bodied people use public transportation and drive their own motor vehicles.  However, most able-bodied people need special adaptations to their cars in order to control them with their feet.  These adaptations are called foot pedals and consist of two small pedals installed on the floor of the vehicle - one for gas, one for brake.  With time and practice, some able-bodied people can master operating a car with hand controls, but most able-bodied people will not have the upper body coordination necessary to drive a car safely with hand controls.

Able-bodied people also use their two legs to propel themselves from place to place, a method commonly referred to as walking, or sometimes jogging, sprinting, or running, though these terms are reserved for bipedal movement of an unusually quick pace.  This method has resulted in the formation of walking distance among the able-bodied population.  Walking distance is a semi-standardized unit of measurement referring to the distance one can walk before fatigue sets in.  It is important to note that these distances are quite long, often covering the span of several miles.  Because the concept of walking distance is so crucial, able-bodied people are often confused when someone cannot walk this prescribed distance.  This confusion is natural and will diminish over time if able-bodied people are exposed early and often to their normal peers.

How do I greet and communicate with an able-bodied person?

Able-bodied people place a high emphasis on eye contact.  It is important to get onto their level when greeting them, otherwise they may be offended.  As able-bodied people rely on their legs to support themselves, it is necessary to look up at them in order to maintain eye contact.  Able-bodied people also greet each other with intimate gestures, such as the handshake or the hug.  These gestures serve as communication in a variety of situations.

Though gestures can serve as some limited communication, able-bodied people communicate primarily through verbal utterances produced from the throat and mouth.  Communication through other means, such as writing, typing, or computerized speech, is rare and makes most able-bodied people profoundly uneasy.  Be patient.  Contrary to popular opinion, able-bodied people are capable of learning.  It may take time, but it is your job to desensitize able-bodied people to normal ways of speaking and moving.

How can I best assist able-bodied people?

Because able-bodied people move around solely on two legs, their balance is often compromised.  Offer to help able-bodied people when you see them on the street, particularly in wet or icy weather.  Though the over-powered musculature of their lower body can compensate quite well for their shortcomings, sometimes assistance is still needed.  If you see an able-bodied person struggling, always offer to help.  They will be grateful for your assistance.

How can I support able-bodied people?

Able-bodied people have the same feelings and desires as the rest of us.  If you are looking to become a professional in the field, programs like Best Buddies facilitate friendships between able-bodied people and normal people.  Though able-bodied people mainly enjoy activities that rely on bipedal movement, such as jogging, other activities can be adapted so that able-bodied people can fully participate.  Most of all, treat able-bodied people with compassion.  You can help relieve their suffering with just a kind word or a few dollars.


11 comments :

Anonymous said...

I bumped into one of these able bodied people in a supermarket, I told her she was SO brave and inspirational, doing her shopping just like us normal wheelchair users! For some reason she seemed a little taken aback, so I talked to her carer instead, and asked him what was wrong with her. Imagine my surprise when he said "Nothing, and I'm not her carer, I'm her husband". I just laughed and laughed, because he was obviously joking, right? (Seriously: thank you for this great piece.)

Charlotte Issyvoo said...

Love it! I'm still somewhat bipedal but I could still relate to this. Once I get my mobility scooter, I bet I'll relate to this even more. I particularly love your bits about "walking distance" and "reduced pain sensitivity."

thoughtsnax.com said...

Love this!

apulrang said...

I'm bipedal, too. However, I don't have that over-abundance of energy, and like most normal people, I have the sense to sit down and rest whenever possible. Are these able-bodied people trying to prove something or what? I see them all the time, just standing there talking to each other for multiple minutes, or watching a parade or somesuch for like, hours. I mean, sit down awhile for heaven's sake!

Oji Dannelley said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this. God Bless those bipeds! We must be patient.

Seriously this is well done and I admire the wit behind the message. As a "border gimp" myself, I "walk the line" (so long as I don't have to do it for long or be very good at it) I will be quoting this as a grand example of seeing things from our unique perspective.

Margot said...

Nice Cara! Reminds me of the "How to help a disabled person" pamphlets I got once but in reverse LOL.

Anonymous said...

Also, they don't like their able-bodiedness to be seen as their defining feature. I know from experience.

Judith said...

I used to work with the able bodied. It was very rewarding.

Jackie Yoshi said...

I love this!

FlutistPride said...

I very much fit this description....

***Anomaly1765 said...

I'm not really a fan of the word able-bodied because of the notion that those with physical disabilities and developmentally, mental, or neurological disabilities are somehow in a distinct or separate category or that these disabilities aren't as important to be addressed because they aren't visible (which is associated with some of the verbiage of able-bodied).

This article can elucidate some more of that if you have a chance to look at it:
https://laurensmithdonohoe.com/2017/02/19/its-time-to-retire-able-bodied/