ROCKHAMPTON-BORN Paralympian Karni Liddell has faced some incredible challenges in her life.
But she says nothing has been as difficult as having to deal with the hurtful, insulting and inappropriate things people say to her.
Karni, who swam at the 1996 and 2000 Paralympics, was born with the degenerative muscle wasting disease spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair.
She says people have said some outrageous things to her over the years.
"Some of the things people say to someone with a disability will just astound you," she said. "These are not necessarily people who are bullying or being deliberately hurtful ... but those words still affect us."
The former world record holder, who is now a disability consultant and motivational speaker, is an ambassador for this year's Chatterbox Challenge.
An initiative of five charities, it raises much-needed funds and awareness of the daily challenges faced by people living with a disability and their families.
Participants are asked to pick one day during the month of "Silent September" and remain silent for a minute, an hour or the whole day.
Karni said people often felt uncomfortable around someone with a disability, and didn't know how to broach a conversation.
"Let me tell you, there is absolutely no need to bring up a person's disability. Converse with us as you would converse normally," she said.
"Quite often, we forget the fact that we are in a chair. We are just going about our day-to-day routine like everybody else.
"This is our 'normal', so when things like that are said, it almost reminds us of the fact we are in a chair."
Karni said if people did not know what was appropriate to say, they shouldn't say anything at all.
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