By Georgia Lambert via SWNS
A muscular dystrophy sufferer has taken to social media to raise awareness of the types of "heartless discrimination" she faces for being disabled.
Louise Halling, who lives with a rare progressive condition that causes her muscles to waste away, felt compelled to share examples of the unwanted attention she has received in the hope of raising awareness of the struggles faced by disabled people.
The 43-year-old was diagnosed with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy at the age of 20.
5/5 (See thread) Ya’ll ready for a few more red flags? 🚩🚩🚩 Ready to share these far and wide to try to help tackle prejudice? 🚩🚩🚩 Pls 🙏🏼 Stop before you speak and ask, “Is this true? Is this necessary? Is this kind?”. #redflag #disability #microaggression 🚩🚩🚩 pic.twitter.com/jppIX5pz6a— Louise Halling Video Counselling (@videocounsellin) October 15, 2021
She experiences extreme chronic pain and fatigue and describes managing her condition as a “fine balancing act” while juggling life as a mom, wife and psychotherapist.
Living in Dorset, England with her husband Mark, 44, and son Jacob, 10, Louise needs mobility assistance when out and about because of the muscle wastage in her legs.
So she has to rely on using a walker, mobility scooter, or a manual wheelchair, which, as Louise explained, attracts unwanted attention and comments from passers-by.
To highlight what she faces on a regular basis, Louise took to Twitter where she released a series of placards that represented a small selection of the many unsolicited remarks she still receives from members of the public.
The types of comments, which were shared in a five-part Twitter thread, included: “She walks like a duck," and “God’s told me he’s going to heal you."
While one showed a picture of Louise’s walking aid, another comment said “I know what it’s like, my granny has one of those."
In a bid to initiate conversations around prejudice towards disabled people, Louise hopes that these shocking images will encourage people to be more thoughtful about what they say, or if they need to say anything at all.
According to Louise, she is often told: “You poor thing” or “I could do with one of those," in relation to her mobility scooter.
She also described the “wheelchair pity” smile that people too often give, which contributes to the patronizing narrative of looking down on disabled people.
Louise said: “Capturing and releasing these photographs was a way for me to reclaim my body and to challenge some of the comments that I am sure many other disabled people also experience every day.
“The trauma of hearing people say “I don’t know how you cope” or “You disabled drivers get all the best spaces” builds up over time and can leave me feeling very frustrated and angry - I don’t have any choice but to cope, because what’s the alternative?
“While people generally don’t intend to cause offense with their comments, I hope that my photos will encourage them to think about what is and isn’t appropriate to say.”
Louise went on to explain that she even gets comments from people questioning her ability as a mother.
She said: “One time a woman took it upon herself to express her surprise that my son was actually my own child. That was so hurtful.
“If the only reason you’re interrupting me is to make a comment about my disability – however harmless it might seem – then I’d ask you to reconsider.”
Louise, who has been struggling to deal with the growing number of comments directed to her, has been backed by Muscular Dystrophy UK, which is encouraging people to reflect on their behavior.
She said: “I’m really pleased Muscular Dystrophy UK is supporting me to encourage more conversations around what comments are and aren’t appropriate.
“I don’t want people to feel paranoid or worry that they can’t say anything to a disabled person anymore for fear of offending them.
“Rather, I’m trying to encourage members of the public to see the person beyond the disability and reflect on the impact that their comments may have.”
Robert Burley, the Director of Care, Communications and Support at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “Our community often tell us that non-disabled people can make insensitive remarks without intending to cause offense.
“These isolated incidents might seem inconsequential, but they build up over time and can be really distressing, especially because disabled people already face a significant number of barriers that exclude them from so much in life.
“Muscular Dystrophy UK hopes that Louise’s photograph series encourages people to reflect on how they can be more inclusive with their language and behavior.
"After all, we should all strive to live in a society where disabled people are treated with the dignity and respect we all deserve.”
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