Analyze and Assess: How I Deal With Disability Harassment

Rena Newman avatar

by Rena Newman |

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Howdy, friends. As an Asperger’s person, I am no stranger to discrimination, ableism, and disability harassment

I could tell you many stories of how I’ve been mistreated due to having a different way of functioning, processing information, and socializing. Sigh.  

A few rhetorical questions I need to ask myself: Why on earth was I surprised when I first experienced prejudice regarding my physical condition? (Insert rolling eyes emoji here.) And why is it so difficult for people to mind their own business? “Honestly …” (Spoken in my best Austin Powers voice.)  

“A Melodious Haiku, Pt. 2.” (Courtesy of Derrian Childress) 

A mockingbird at a local restaurant 

I’ve been laughed at and given dirty looks for wearing my Raynaud’s gloves. It’s strange how people have such an attitude about it. I deal with other rude things, too, including almost getting knocked over at the store while moving at the pace of a three-toed sloth. But I’d like to share my most memorable experience with disability harassment, which is on a different level. 

Here’s the story. It’s recent, so it’s fresh. For my husband Joe’s birthday this year, we went out to eat at one of our favorite local restaurants. We felt good all dolled up. We enjoyed a delicious meal and had a fun time celebrating. Upon leaving, I was faced with the challenge of getting down the stairs, since there was no ramp. It’s a good thing I didn’t need my nifty walker that day.

(I’ll let you in on a little secret, sometimes I fantasize about decking out my mobility devices. Is there a show that exists called “Pimp My Walker”? )

Back to it. Getting down the steps wouldn’t be an impossible feat, but it would still be a challenge. I needed to take my time and lean my weight on my husband as he held my hand and guided me, while my other hand held on to the railing. 

As I was trying to concentrate so I didn’t end up falling and landing on my face, I heard a high-pitched, condescending voice out of nowhere say, “You can do it. Come on, one step at a time.”  

I looked up and saw an audience of two. One of them was mimicking the way I was stepping. I wondered if she thought I was drunk, or maybe she just didn’t like the look on my face. Just so you know, I often have random, unique, mismatching facial expressions, one of the perks of being an “Aspie.” (Insert dancer emoji here.)

I must get this tale out before I get … twitchy.  

Maybe she was drunk? Who knows, but this mockingbird “admirer” cheered me on the entire time it took me to get to the bottom of the steps. I even got an applause at the end! I considered taking a bow. Maybe I would have had I consumed an alcoholic beverage during dinner. But honestly, I was too weak and tired to play. 

Wrapping it up

So, how did this “Sjögie” respond to this disability-related harassment? Well, I ignored it. Later, I cried, and then I laughed. I concluded it wasn’t worth addressing, based on my process of assessing things, which involves asking myself the following questions: Am I in danger in any way? How important is this? How much of my energy and effort will be used? Is it worth it?

Here’s a good saying to remember: Don’t personalize. Assess, then decide.  

Till next time. Remember to stay strong, laugh, yell, or cry if you need to, and don’t ever lose hope. 

This week’s shoutout goes to Bev! Thank you for your comment. I’m touched that you look forward to Mondays now. Be well. 


Note: Sjögren’s Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sjögren’s Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Sjögren’s syndrome.


Mit John Street. avatar

Mit John Street.

I have been through the mill like yourself. It all started after a serious road accident in 1971, In Rutland , England.
I was punched through the roof of my car, nobody knows how I survived . I got brain damage, but was just given a quick check and ejected from Leicester Hospital. Anyway, I became aware of Sjogren`s when in a mental hospital.
I have been accused of being an idiot / drunkard , but I feel sorry for these people as they will never know what it is like to be frightened to such a degree as climbing the wall. I have always done well in academic trails and won a few prizes. My twin sister has now refused to talk to me as she has decided that I make up these illnesses to annoy the family and her. She is un- caring idiot as she will not believe any of what the doctors say. and insists she is right .She as told her friends how much she does for me, which amounts to very little and they praise her incessantly.
She accuses me of everything and anything, which hurts as we are twins. She is not as intelligent as she makes out, she had little knowledge of Physics or Chemistry and as for Quantum Mechanics ; she believes I make it up myself to sound pompose, and tells me so..I say , why ask me a question if you reject all answers form myself. ?. It drives me mad, but I am so sorry for her as I realise how much understanding of the Universe she misses. And that is my stance, real dim- wits are so immature that they are doomed to miss all the fine points of life. But I would like to give them a quick upper-cut just the same.

Felicita Alvarado avatar

Felicita Alvarado

Thank you for sharing and your wonderful sense of humor. People will be who they are. I have a difficult time with escalators. Not so much up but going down. I hear people behind me get impatient and usually go around me. So have have learned to seek an elevator if it is available, Going off the curb sometimes is a problem ,I look for the handicap sidewalk. I am having skin manifestations of the Sjogren's as per my dermatologist. One day at a time. God Bless and have an awesome day.

Bev Nord avatar

Bev Nord

I was so busy with my vertigo that I almost forgot it was monday. But there you were, waiting in my inbox. I am proud of you for not saying anything to your "mockingbird". I have been trying to improve, my own responses, honest. I even wrote down the fruit of the Spirit. It just hasn't worked, yet. Maybe it will someday.

Connie McCracken avatar

Connie McCracken

Love your stories! Just curious... has any one of you sjogies out there had a bad experience giving blood? I have been a blood donor for many years without incident, but yesterday I donated and felt fine until walking to my car. I stopped to chat just a minute with some friends who were sitting on a bench outside the building. It was hot. All at once the world started spinning! Without all the details, I ended up passing out cold, but safely. Took a while to recover and a friend drove me home. I don't think the incident had anything to do with Sjogren's, but not sure. Any thoughts?

stephen lamusta avatar

stephen lamusta

Thanks for the tip, I get little comments of harassment quite often. I have small accident's a lot.

Robyn Procel avatar

Robyn Procel

Reading your contribution made me feel like a whinging thing. My disease only manifests with dry mouth and ulcerated tongue. I didn’t realise how debilitating this disease can be. I now realise how lightly I got off and be satisfied that all is not as gloom and doom as I thought


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