Yeah, I know ... I'm missing a leg. Let's move on

Miranda Cashin puts her new cyborg leg through the paces at a training session.
Miranda Cashin puts her new cyborg leg through the paces at a training session. Chrissy Harris Photography

"HOW did you lose the leg?" the elderly lady asks me as we stand opposite one another on the parallel bars in the rehab gym.

Here we go again. As an amputee this is a common question I encounter as regularly as remarks about the weather. I tell her I was amputated as a kid.

"You are missing half your leg," she comments as though it might have slipped my attention. As if my fly is undone and I am simply unaware.

"Are you married?" she asks. I shake my head.

"That is such a shame. How on earth are you going to find a husband now? You poor thing." She gives me a look of pure pity.

While comments like these have become a common occurrence, this is a first. I can't help but laugh.

When it comes to talking about disability it's fascinating witnessing people's reactions. Just like talking about death, people are often awkward and at times quite inappropriate.

When I was born the doctors told mum cheerily, "well now she can compete in the Paralympics". As though it was a consolation prize for being born with a disability.

>> Feature story: I'm just a girl with a cyborg leg. Treat me the same

I can't see doctors saying to parents of able-bodied children, "you must be excited, they could compete in the Olympics".

Most of the time it is well-meaning. People naturally try to console you in any way they can or they attempt to diffuse a situation they feel suddenly awkward about.

The most interesting reactions were observed recently when I had my surgery and spent some time in a wheelchair. My disability hadn't changed, but boy did people's reactions alter.

The girl at the counter where I had purchased some jewellery handed me my change and with a sympathetic tilt of the head said, "you have such a pretty face."

Subtext: too bad you are disabled.

I was also offered free movie tickets by the girls behind the cinema counter who gave me pitying looks and sad smiles.

"She seems in good spirits," they would whisper in hushed tones to my mother.

It's all very well-meaning and most of the time it comes from a good and kind place, but really it's unnecessary.

I understand disability can at times make you uncomfortable or awkward but when dealing with someone with any form of disability, physical or intellectual, what's the best way to behave?

As you would toward a person without a disability.



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