Please Don’t Touch Me – A Response To #JustAskDontGrab

If you follow my personal twitter, you’ll be familiar with my pinned tweet.

You’d think this was just common sense. But you’d be surprised how many tweets like this are screamed into the ether that is twitter.

My own lived experience of this is personal to me. I am aware that I have the inherant privilege that comes from being a middle xlass white woman raised in the south of England. When people touch my chair, they’re often quite taken aback when they are lectured by a stern BBC British accent that occasionally verges on the clipped tones of Mary Poppins.

I have grown accustomed to being leaned over in supermarkets and often pushed out of the way like an abandoned shopping trolley.

My standard response is to put on my brakes & request their name as grabbing a mobility aid without consent is assult (by UK law the act of pushing is assault, if they continue to push without consent this begins to border on kidnap).

Now, the act of putting the brakes on suddenly causes a few issues. Firstly momentum dictates that I’ll likely be tipped out if they shove too hard (I have an active user chair that’s designed to be “tippy” to make it more maneuverable). This is a calculated risk – if I do fall, that’s probably a few dislocations & potential for fractures because I’m what happens after elastagirl retires.

So I had my own way of dealing with what I thought was just an irritation. Then I saw a tweet thread that made me realise quite why I insisted on paying an extra £150 for tiny folding habdles on my chair (it’s a deterrent, but people still grab / shove the back of my chair).

This tweet by @BergBronwyn made me realise that the reason I get so cross with being moved is that I feel vunerable in my chair.

But it wasn’t just the tweet that caused concern, it was the streams of responses from people who saw no issue with taking away someone’s autonomy. I’ve made no effort to hide identities because it’s already in the public domain and this type of behaviour should be called out.

I’m still unable to work out if @chadwhite45 was a troll or just completely ignorant.

And he persisted:

And he certainly wasn’t alone in mocking her – some of these are ableism at its finest:

And since this reached so many people, I was really shocked that many were blissfully unaware of the increased risks when you are disabled.

  • As a disabled woman you’re twice as likely to be a victim of violent assault.
  • As a disabled woman, you’re twice as likely to have been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months
  • 1 in 5 of disabled women reported financial, physical, or sexual abuse from a partner – for both men & women, this statistic was twice as high as non-disabled people.

It’s no wonder that we feel more vunerable. And of course this is fuelled further by the fact that if I’m pushing my chair & you push it suddenly, I run the risk of wrist, elbow, or even shoulder dislocations. Even without EDS, an unexpected push could cause damage to the limbs that we need to be mobile!

It’s also really scary. I can only compare it to walking happily along when a complete stranger picks you up & carries you off. You have no idea why, or whether you’ll be hurt. But we can avoid these with two simple rules:

  1. Ask if we need help
  2. If we say no, then don’t assume you know better

So seeing as I’ve quoted many tweets throughout this post, I’ll end with what I thought was the best response of all.

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