“You’re Too Pretty To Be In A Wheelchair” is Not a Compliment

25 year old Tylia Flores wrote on her blog that as a person with cerebral palsy, there are a lot of not so thoughtful ‘compliments’ that may not be interpreted as the person intended. She wrote,
“The one ‘compliment’ that I always get from people who see me out and about rolling in my power chair is you’re too pretty to be in that wheelchair. When you are going to get up and walk?”

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a rare neurological disorder that causes difficulty with movement. It is characterized by alack of muscle control. Symptoms include stiff muscles, lack of normal reflexes, variations in muscle tone, lack of coordination, favoring one side of the body, difficulty walking, slow development, and seizures. Symptoms vary from person to person. The disease is believed to be due to damage to the brain before the age of two.
When you have an uncontrollable physical disability, you undoubtedly wonder about the world that would be possible if your disability didn’t exist. If you could walk, if you could swim, or go rock climbing. For Tylia, being told that she would be enough if she could just walk hits at a deep source of pain. It implies that all of what she is now is not enough, because she is in a wheelchair.
Whenever I hear this compliment from someone I cringe and I think to myself only if they understood how much I have the desire to get up and walk without feeling a single ounce of stiffness and tightness throughout my left side,” she wrote. “This “compliment” makes me start to wonder about all the what-ifs, and it brings me down into a very negative headspace.”
 Tylia feels like she is constantly having to find ways to adjust to the world anyways as a person with cerebral palsy, and that often means that what is easy for an able-bodied person may take her ten times as long. Being slowed down like that can make it take longer to reach her goals and ambitions, but she still has them. Sometimes, it seems like people don’t understand this— they think she cannot do anything just because she has to do it more slowly.
She also feels like this “compliment” is blind to all of her efforts. Physical therapy, aqua therapy, and sand strength training are all preparing her to be able to do more. She notes, “We don’t get a thrill out of sitting in a wheelchair and depending on someone. We want more for ourselves and our lives.”
 A person with a disability is very aware that life would be easier without it. Keep the compliments encouraging!

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email