Our comms volunteer Sarah gives her personal perspective on the Government’s ‘Ask Don’t Assume’ campaign.
As a disabled person, do non-disabled people make assumptions about you and/or your abilities or give help or advice when you don’t want it? If so, you’re not alone.
A Government campaign ‘Ask Don’t Assume’ features the voices of people with various disabilities who describe their feelings about how people react to them. The aim of the campaign is to encourage other people to consider what those with disabilities may want or need rather than make assumptions, and being disabled myself, I felt compelled to explore my personal response to it.
A benefit of the campaign is that it raises awareness of how common people’s experiences are, regardless of the specific nature of the disability.
Many issues that I personally struggle with, such as being given ‘help’ or advice that wasn’t asked for in relation to my disability, was mentioned by nearly all interviewees regardless of specific disability.
Highlighting these issues can help disabled people like me feel that they are not alone in dealing with them. In doing so, the campaign will hopefully encourage non-disabled people to consider how they respond when they see someone with a disability.
I liked that the campaign features people with disabilities talking about their own lived experiences. It highlights the fact disabled people are people too, with their own wishes and feelings and needs, and they cannot fit into a stereotype of any specific disability.
Like many of the interviewees, I have had various labels placed on me such as ‘inspiring’ and ‘superhuman’ which, while seemingly positive, can feel isolating and as if we are somehow different from everyone else, whereas in fact everyone has challenges in their life. Equally, we do not want to be ‘written off’ by those who assume they are incapable of a job and/or depressed.
Some people assume it’s terrible that I use a mobility scooter as a relatively young person. In some ways it is, but I choose to focus on having more freedom, and my mental health is reasonable. I am far more than my disability, just like everyone else is.
Overall, in my view the campaign brilliantly shows that people with disabilities have the same choices over how they see themselves and how they wish to be perceived. Again, it may encourage others to re-think their responses and assumptions.
There are two minor issues worth mentioning. The first is that people with disabilities do not always feel able to ask for help and that others may feel anxious about offering it in case they cause offence. Good communication and respect are essential here.
This leads onto the second issue, which is that nearly all interviewees said they would like people to talk to them or ask what their disability is rather than stare. I agree that asking is preferable to staring, but my thoughts are that asking about someone’s disability is not a right and can feel intrusive.
I have been asked many times why I use a mobility scooter, with additional comments making clear that the same people assume I am too lazy to walk my dog! Again, having respect for the individual’s feelings and wishes is key here, which is what I believe the campaign does very well.
You can visit the campaign page here: Our stories – Ask Don’t Assume (askdontassume.campaign.gov.uk)