Navigating Relationships and Communication

Shannon Hines’ next inside scoop on acceptance


Graphic by Bernice Tang

Sometimes, acquaintances can turn into friendships that people treasure. But long lasting relationships require hard work and perseverance to keep those connections alive. People with disabilities are no different in wanting long lasting relationships throughout our lifetime.

Relationships come from different areas such as home, work, school and the community. People with disabilities deserve to be a part of those relationships. Even though it might be difficult for some, getting educated about how to connect with people with disabilities can prove beneficial.

Interacting with people who have disabilities requires being open to getting to know them. They may just be different from the average person.

I will share a personal story with you. I will be married for a milestone of 20 years in June 2022. My husband, Tim, took a loving chance on me. He looked not at my wheelchair but at me, the person inside the wheelchair. Being open and honest with him when we met on Yahoo Personals was something I needed to do for me.

I am proud of who I am and have no shame or shyness about it. With that in mind, the next step was to meet him. We started out as friends. Within six months, our friendship turned into a loving relationship. We were engaged on Valentine’s Day in 2001 and have been married since June 2002.

I am a lucky woman that I am called a wife and am loved unconditionally without my disability defining me. I am forever grateful for my wonderful relationship and am thankful for my husband for loving me beyond my limitations and seeing my abilities as a part of a successful life.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Baby!

Being open towards people with disabilities brings a sense of acceptance. Knowing we can express who we are without being judged for the way we are is appreciated. There is no need to avoid communicating with us even though we may struggle with communication skills at times. Some of the ways we communicate may seem unusual. Being transparent, patient and understanding are ways to help the process as we share our message or conversation.

For example, a student may be looked down upon for not being able to communicate traditionally. Giving the student time to answer questions or ask a clarifying question helps because people communicate in their own way. People with disabilities may talk slower, have slurred speech or other types of speech problems but do not count them out.

Inviting these students to participate in social settings such as study sessions, teams or group projects can allow them a chance to express themselves. People with disabilities want to learn in school just like any other person.

Similarly, accepting people with disabilities and being open to their thoughts and opinions can promote a lasting relationship. People with disabilities may not understand concepts right away but give them a chance to communicate and build that relationship.

The hiring process for employment involves communication and forming professional relationships like any other employee.

First, an employer should be open towards forming a relationship with people with disabilities. Giving people with disabilities the opportunity to earn respectable jobs and a dependable line of communication to a boss, all starts with the interview process.

The job interview may be communicated in a different form but time and patience are crucial because it helps the interview to go smoothly. Job interviews can be a nerve wracking ordeal all on their own. The experience may be a little harder for people with disabilities, so making the effort to get educated on communicating with people with disabilities can help make the process enjoyable for both parties.

In the work environment, people with disabilities want to expand their knowledge and have a chance to learn the job requirements and duties that are needed for the job title.

Using the proper language for them to understand and communicate in return is appreciated because it shows that you care enough to assist them in learning the job duties.

For someone that is curious and wants to get to know a person with a disability, ask them if they want to get to know you. Keep an open mind and learn how they communicate to slowly build communication with them. Having people just take the time to show people with disabilities the ropes is a step towards acceptance and building lasting relationships.

Everyone deserves to have friendships and to have the opportunity to have other people to engage in conversation.

People with disabilities can have friendships platonically or romantically like anyone else. Taking the chance to be friends can result in a lasting friendship where people can learn from each other. Learning from communication brings friendships closer to the point where the disability will be a thing of the past.

In some cases, those friendships can even lead to romantic relationships. Some people with disabilities have dreams of getting married and having a partner that sees the person for who they are and not the disability.

Personally, I had my dream wedding where I was loved for being me and not my disabled body in a wheelchair. This is not so different as in any able-bodied person.

Any person can be loved with intimacy by another. Many people with disabilities just need a chance to experience a social life that is fulfilling and be a part of the community.

I hope that this segment of my disability awareness series has brought you a better understanding of being open to getting to know people with disabilities with communication and relationships in the mix.

Whatever the case might be, getting to know people with disabilities as a part of your community at home, school, work or other environments is beneficial. We deserve to have meaningful relationships with people that are willing to make conversations with us through open minds and hearts.

Please continue to be a part of the conversation and email me at [email protected] for any topic ideas and feedback. Thank you for your time and interest in my series.