Things To Stop Telling People With A Disability In Malta

Who are you calling a miskin(a)?

Disabled

1. "Kuraġġ!" 

(Have Courage)

We seem to say this to everyone we think may be going through a rough time, from someone breaking up with their boyfriend/girlfriend, to someone having lost their cat/dog, to someone undergoing chemotherapy, to persons with disability. Flash news: no amount of courage is going to turn a flight of steps into a ramp/lift, turn written information into accessible information for people with a visual impairment, or turn spoken language into Maltese Sign Language. 

Then again we probably do need the courage but not for the same reason that people think. We need the courage to get over the people who park in reserved parking places without a blue badge, we need to courage to make our way through the streets making sure we don’t fall into a pothole, and we need the courage to withstand the following phrases. 

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2. "Jaħasra/Miskin/Miskina" 

(Poor you)

Similar to ‘kuraġġ’... we seem to use this whenever we're at a loss for words. But – no. Just because someone uses a wheelchair, a guide dog, communicates in sign language or needs information in easy-to-read format ,does not make them a miskin/miskina

With the appropriate services and the right assistive equipment available, persons with disability can do almost everything that the rest of society does. And when I say everything, I mean everything.

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3. "Kulħadd b’xi salib!" 

(Everyone has a cross to bear)

Most days we do just get on with our lives – we've learnt to accept our situation and adapt accordingly. Do you wake up every morning wishing you could fly? I assume not, because you know you can’t do it. Well it’s the same for most people with disability. 

We don’t wake up every morning wishing we could walk, run, see or hear. However, we do wish that people wouldn't discriminate against people with disability making ill-informed and sometimes down-right silly assumptions.

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4. "Ħelu/Ħelwa allavolja disabled" 

(You’re still attractive even though you are disabled)

Erm...last I checked there was no legislation saying that being attractive and being disbaled were mutually exclusive. 

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5. "Ħa nsaqsik għax inti tkun taf – lil dik ngħinha?"

(Can I ask you since you'd know – should I help her?)

If I was given €10 for everytime I was asked this question I’d be rich by now. People think that just because you are a person with a disability, you are the oracle and you know how all the other people with a disability will think and act. People with a disability are NOT a homogenous group. We all have different personalities and different coping mechanisms. 

If you think someone may need help ask before you start helping. If they say yes, ask them how they would like to be helped – don't assume you know how. If they say no, don’t take this personally.

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6. Għandek post il-ġenna (You have a place in heaven)

This is often said to the non-disabled partner of a person with disability. People tend to assume that the non-disabled partners have a special place reserved for them in heaven for having chosen a wife/husband with disability. 

Well, this just in: most non-disabled husbands/wives don't spend every waking hour looking after their partner with disability. Marriages between non-disabled people and people with a disability are as varied as any other. Do people with a disability spend their whole life thinking their partner is the angel Gabriel incarnate...hell no!

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Written By

Amy Camilleri Zahra

Amy is a disability rights activist and assistant lecturer at the University of Malta. She has worked towards the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disabilities) Act 2000, and gender issues.

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