Dear Ann Landers, My sister is a dwarf and has been confined to a wheelchair for the past nine years. Since I was a small child, I have hated the ignorance with which she is treated. Even when she was able to walk, people would stare at her, step away and even pull their children back as if she had a contagious disease.
Restaurant servers ignore her or ask me what she wants to eat. When that happens, I say, "Why don't you ask her?" This startles them. They apparently don't think she is able to understand or speak. She has had appointments with physicians who rarely talk to her and direct the conversation to whoever is with her. You would think doctors would be less ignorant, but they are not.
It disgusts me when adults behave in this manner. I can only imagine how it makes my sister feel. Please remind your readers that all people deserve to be treated with respect. -- Ignorance Hurts
Dear I.H., Children need to be taught at an early age how they should behave when they encounter someone who is "different." The first lesson is: "Do not stare. If you have questions, ask me later, and I will explain it to you."
When adults treat a physically challenged person as if he or she were brain-damaged, speak up and set them straight. If that individual is embarrassed, fine. The lesson will make an even deeper impression.