If you don’t know someone with a disability, chances are you have a few misconceptions about us.
The thing is no one can expect you to read our minds, but if you’re out there right now and are interested in expanding your world view, check out a few things people tend to get wrong about us (or rather don’t fully understand). By the end of his post, consider yourself enlightened.
1) We know when you’re staring.
A lot of able-bodied people like to think we’re a bit slow mentally, often thinking our intellectual abilities aren’t up to par. These are the same people that like to stare at us thinking we’re some creature on display and too dense to realize we’re being stared at. But the joke is on them. Not only do we know you’re staring at us, you’re looking like a total jerk in the process.
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2) We’re not depressed because we’re disabled.
A lot of people like to imagine we’re deeply depressed because of our disability. The limitations, the social stigma, the missed opportunities. Yes all that is bad and we know that most people can’t imagine living in the bodies that we live in, but don’t think we’re living in a deep darkness of despair. We are strong individuals and relish life. We’re not looking jealously at people walking by, we’re busy living our lives.
3) Where do we get our strength? Same place as you.
So many able-bodied people wonder in disbelief how we are as strong as we are, putting us on a pedestal and looking at us like we’re aliens. “Where does it come from,” they wonder. “They must’ve been blessed by God to be so strong.” But I’ll let you in on a little secret — we get our strength from the same place that’s in all of us. We can all be peerlessly strong in the face of permanent disability, even you.
4) Our disabilities can suck our energy.
While we fervently want to be treated like everybody else, for many of us, our disabilities make us move a bit slower. It’s something that can’t be avoided. We need to get smart about rationing our energy and getting better at asking people for help. If you think we’re just being lazy, think again. When you’re moving with compromised mobility, you burn more calories and tire easily.
5) We zoom because it’s cathartic.
“Slow down speed demon” or something to that effect is a phrase I get often. What can I say, it’s fun to go fast in my power wheelchair. When I do I feel more free and less disabled. But don’t get me wrong, I know it can freak able-bodied people as I zoom by (especially when I catch them off guard).
6) We deal because we have no other choice.
Another thing people often wonder is how we’re able to accept our disability. “I could never do it,” they think and admire us like we’re some untouchable saint. The only reason we’re able to accept our disability is because we have no other choice, kind of like how you had to accept that grandma or grandpa died. It’s just a fact of life that you must swallow and move on from.
7) We’re stronger than we look.
I often get remarks from new caregivers who are surprised by how strong my arms are, thinking that they must be very weak. A lot of able-bodied people like to assume people with disabilities are physically less strong, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of us have a lot of strength in our bodies, coordinating that strength is where the problem comes in.
8) We are not obsessed with getting better.
We’re also not obsessed with becoming cured or busy praying to God on a daily basis for a spontaneous miracle. A few of us may be doing this, but as a whole this is a huge stereotype. Most of us just want to move on and enjoy what time we have left on this earth. We too realize how short life can be, probably even more than the average person.
9) We’re highly observant.
Since physically moving is difficult for many of us, we spend many hours sitting in our wheelchairs using our minds instead. One thing people don’t realize is that we’re highly observant, watching everything going on in the room and even tuning into the emotions of the individuals in said room, seeing things most people don’t notice.
10) We’re just like you.
Despite all our differences, at the end of the day we’re more like you then you realize. Sure our lives are vastly different, you can walk and we can’t. You have a family and kids, a lot of friends and many of us are single with only a few friends. But at the end of the day, we are all still human–the common bond that makes us so similar.
It’s nearly impossible to fully understand someone else’s point of view in this world, but this list can help. Our disabilities do not make us as different as the world would like to think. They only make us more strong, more observant and more realistic people.
What does the world got wrong about you as someone with a disability?