Many people have physical conditions or so-called disabilities that aren’t obvious. For instance, I recently met a woman who has one leg that is shorter than the other. I had noticed that her gait was a little different, but I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until our second meeting, where we happened to pass a shoe shop, that she explained that she wears a corrective heel on one foot to keep her height level. She showed me that one shoe had a thicker heel.
She told me that people often ask about her limp, but not always in the most delicate way. Strangers have asked if she’s okay, treating her like a drunk person who is wobbling around after too much alcohol. Some people flat-out ask why she walks a certain way, or if she’s sprained her ankle. She doesn’t mind talking about her condition with friends or colleagues, but it’s not really anyone else’s business. She can walk from point A to point B and that is what is important to her, not whether or not she has a limp. She underwent several painful surgeries as a child to help the situation, and refuses to do through that again just to put a stop to people inquiring about her limp.
What I took away from this exchange is that it’s important to respect someone’s privacy. If someone you know comes in with crutches one day, or clearly injured him or herself, that’s one thing. But if someone walks with a limp or awkward gait, resist the urge to ask what’s wrong or treat them in a belittling manner.