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  • Writer's picturePeta

Mummy, why is she in that?

Oh gosh, the dog is barking at them. Oh, no now my three-year-old is pointing at them staring. What do I do? Peta has the solution to your problem.

This weeks' episode is a practical guide of what to do if your fur baby or actual baby responds to a person with a disability in a less than perfect way. If Peta got a dollar for every time a child asks their mother, 'mummy, why is she in that?' Peta would be a squillionaire.

Connect with Peta:

Instagram: @petahooke

Trigger warning for language in this episode


Episode transcript:

[00:00:02] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast, the podcast, answering your questions on what it's like to live with a disability. Every week I'm your host. My name is Peta and this week's question I had to sort of think about, Anthea asked me, what do I do? I have a badly-behaved dog that happens to hate wheelchairs and every time we walk past someone in one, I feel extremely embarrassed.

[00:00:32] Well, Anthea, I've got the solutions for you. I thought I'd take the opportunity to also talk about what to do when your child asks you, Mummy, why is she in that? It's a question that I hear all the time. So, I'm going to give you some practical tips that are easy to implement.

[00:00:54] If you'd like to ask me a question, there are three ways you can do so. One via Instagram @icantstandpodcast, two email me at and three, contact me through the website at OK, let's get into it.

[00:01:22] This week's question was from Anthea, and she asked about her pet and what she should do when he behaves badly in public in front of someone with a disability. Thanks, so much for the question, Anthea. If you don't mind, I'm also going to add what you should do if your child asks you a question in front of somebody with a disability.

[00:01:45] I can't tell you how many times I go out for a walk or if you want to be 100 per cent correct, a wheel. I ever hear a dog barking on a lead because he's obsessed with my wheels or I hear a child ask Mummy why she in that?

[00:02:05] So I thought I'd take the opportunity to explain what I think the best approach is for both pets and children.

Dog on a lead
Dog on a lead

[00:02:14] I'm going to talk about dogs first. So personally, I'm not insulted if a dog barks at me. I might be the very first time that they've seen a wheelchair. In the end, they're an animal and I can understand how a mobility aid could look scary to them. Most dogs are not exposed to wheelchairs, so their encounters can be overwhelming and scary to them. Genetically, not that I'm a dog expert at all, but genetically, some dogs are made to herd or they just have a fixation with moving wheels or moving objects and unfortunately; I am part of that category.

[00:02:58] So my advice to you as a fellow dog owner is to be calm and patient with them. If it's appropriate, go and say hello to the person that's using the mobility aid.

[00:03:11] I find dogs attitudes towards me and my wheelchair change significantly if they can sniff my wheelchair. So, they can get a vibe and understand it's not something to be scared of. If a dog can follow a wheelchair for a period of time, maybe 100 meters, they can then start to be calm and regulate their behaviour. They realise that the wheelchair isn't going to attack them, and they don't need to herd it. When I meet a new dog, I always suggest that they follow behind me instead of in front. They can see me while they're walking, and they feel more comfortable.

Two men walking on a pier with their dog
A dog following the crowd

[00:03:53] So that's my little strategy for letting a dog feel more comfortable around me in my wheelchair. As I said earlier, for some dogs, it's just genetic. They love wheels. They bark at cars. So, it makes sense, they will bark at wheelchairs. So now we've completed the fur baby section of this podcast, actual human babies, there's a lot more strategies you can put in place to allow your child to learn and see disability as a positive.

[00:04:25] If I had a dollar for every time, I heard a child ask their parent, Mummy, why is she in that? I'd be a squillionaire. It happens all the time and most children are just fascinated by my difference.

boy pointing at something
Mummy what's that?

[00:04:42] They're asking out of pure inquisitiveness; they have no connotations as to why that's a negative question. They're just asking you. So, what do you do if your child asks you a question in front of someone with a disability?

[00:05:00] Firstly, don't ignore the fact that they're staring, don't shush them, allow them to verbalise their natural curiosity in regard to that particular disability that they're pointing out. Using eye contact, bob down to their level, foster that wants to understand. Maybe do a quick Google but for me, as long as you satisfy the absolute golden rule of putting a positive spin on somebodies’ difference, you're already kicking goals.

[00:05:37] If it seems appropriate, go and see if you can say hello to the person with a disability, just in case you're nervous to come up to someone with a disability, all you would have to do, in my opinion, is introduce yourself, introduce your child and then as the person with the disability, if it's all right to ask them that question, I think that level of politeness will ensure a positive interaction for all parties.

[00:06:09] Of course, am very happy to answer questions. It's what I do best. Not everyone with disabilities feels the same as I do. It's a big burden having to educate members of the public over and over and over again. So, if someone does say, no, please don't be offended.

[00:06:32] Personally, I'm a pro at answering tricky and often very honest questions by little kids. We know little kids have absolutely no filter. The other day I had a sweet little girl come up to me and say, Why are your feet so fat? Oh, and the funniest question I think I've ever been asked by a child is why I'm still in a pram at my age. It's the context, I guess, that they understand and I thought it was hilarious.

Dog lying on wheelchair wheel
My Harley is used to wheelchairs :)

[00:07:04] So when I do get asked questions, I always try and put a positive spin on my answer. It's important for me to make sure a child understands that having a disability isn't necessarily a negative thing.

[00:07:17] So if they ask me why I'm in a wheelchair, I tell them the truth. I say to them, I'm not as clever as you are. I can't walk. So I use a wheelchair. Or they're a little bit older, I explain to them that I was born too early. I didn't get enough time in my mummy's tummy, so I can't walk like they can. I then illustrate to them how my wheelchair works, that my wheelchair elevates, allowing me to go taller than them. Normally they're so fascinated by the changes in my wheelchair that they've then satisfied with my answer.

[00:07:58] So I hope that answered your question, Andrea, particularly on the pet side of things, but also giving you an insight on what to do if you're a parent and your child has those questions.

[00:08:11] I also thought I'd quickly talk about language. As you probably know, there are certain words that aren't seen as politically correct anymore, so I thought I'd go through them.

[00:08:23] So trigger warning, these are not what you should cite in any circumstance to anyone, whether it's a person with a disability or a person without a disability.

[00:08:35] My words that are a big no, no include but aren't limited to retarded retardation, spastic, cripple, brain-damaged, challenged, special, deformed, gimp, freak, imbecile, wheelchair-bound, victim, and in some circumstances, the word inspiration. Now, some of those, hopefully for you will be fairly self-explanatory as to why we don't say them any more in society. Words that have negative connotations like that can hurt and it's important that everybody is aware of what they say because they can be offensive to those with a disability or those who know someone with a disability.

[00:09:26] I probably need to explain to you why the word inspiration is on my list. I'm not saying that nobody can call me an inspiration, but I only call me an inspiration when it's warranted.

[00:09:41] Someone’s told me before that I'm an inspiration, that I do my own washing. Now, look, don't get me wrong, I don't love doing the washing, but I don't think it really warrants the word inspiration. I'm just doing my normal chores around the house like everybody else would.

[00:09:59] And implying that a person with a disability is courageous, or special by just getting through the day, is slightly patronising and a little bit offensive. Please be aware of the situation you use the word inspiration.

[00:10:15] So the information I'm giving you may seem a little bit daunting, but it's important to remember to simply focus on the person rather than the disability. And it's okay if you say the wrong word occasionally, just be aware. That is all I ask, be aware and be willing to learn. And simply by listening to this podcast, you're already kicking goals. You're already being an ally to the disability community.

[00:10:48] I hope those actionable and practical tips help. So regardless of whether it's your fur baby or your actual baby, you now know what to do. If you found this helpful, please rate and review the podcast. Until next week, BYE!


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