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Which is the best approach to take when chatting to someone for the first time online? Though, is it really deceitful to choose to withhold certain information until you get to know the person better?

One of the residents here also chats online. But, by choice, he does not reveal information about his disability until he knows the person quite well. He has received a negative response too often, I think. Though those were not his exact words.

Could this be attributed to his age group? The older crowd being one where those with disabilities were shoveled away to institutions and forgotten about? Where to have a physical disability meantΒ  automatically that you were mentally retarded as well and classified as strange. A freak. Not to be associated with.

Maybe it is just sheer ignorance.

My style has almost always been, this is me. I am in a wheelchair. Like it or get lost. I feel that honesty is the best policy and to withhold such vital information about yourself is pretty much like being deceitful. Is deceitful the right word to use?

Anyway, this stems from well before I discovered the Internet…

In 1993, I was in Standard 7 (or Grade 9) at an all girls’ school. We had a free lesson the one day, so I said to a friend, give me the name of a guy (at our brother school) that I could write to. She gave me two names. I chose to write to Jason.Β  In my first letter, I told him stuff about me, but did not tell him I was in a wheelchair.

I will never forget his reply. It turned out that he knew exactly who I was and asked why I had not mentioned my wheelchair in my first letter. From there, a great friendship developed. We are still in touch today, but not as often as we’d like.

Don’t get me wrong. It was not all roses. When I first started chatting, I was very green and eager to meet people online. I had more than my fair share of disappointments with insults like, “you look like a granny” when they saw my picture.

I stuck to my guns, always sharing that I was in a wheelchair, and gradually developed a sixth sense as to which chatters got past “Hi, how are you?”

I withdrew quite a bit, while married, but now that my options are open again, I have not changed my chat approach. Yet, the people I chat to are very open-minded. Maybe because the age group has matured a bit, I don’t know. I guess this is a topic that will require further investigation …

But in my shoes, what would you do – be honest, or hide your disability?

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