I find myself at a place where I am thankful for my disability, but that hasn’t always been the case. In my younger days I hated it. I had days where I hated God for making me different. I felt ignored, outcast, and unwelcome all because I was in a wheelchair. But the older I get the more I realize people’s reasoning behind their standoffish behavior. People were afraid of addressing the elephant in the room. It wasn’t until I realized such motives for peoples behaviors that my attitude began to change. I then wanted to be a part of the solution and not the problem. The fact that I had negative emotions about my disability further caused people to not want to address it. But that’s what needed to happen all along. Once I became comfortable with who I was I was able to have no problem talking about my disability, and once I started talking about it then I saw people start to be at ease and more friendly towards me. Yes, I have a disability. It’s a part of who I am and it will be for the rest of my life. But it’s a part of me not all of who I am, and that is the case with everyone with disabilities. A disability shouldn’t define a person, just like being tall or short, having blue eyes or brown eyes, should not define someone as a person. People with disabilities have the same aspirations that everyone else has. Many people with disabilities want things such as a spouse, a family of their own, and a job in a career field they love and are passionate about. People with disabilities have hobbies they enjoy, beliefs they feel strongly about, and life experiences not influenced by their disability that have shaped them. But you won’t know these things unless you ask. And if you’re a person with a disability others will be more friendly if you’re comfortable in your own skin. So be you and don’t be ashamed of who you are. God made you with a purpose and you are perfect to Him.
Most people I’ve met never would intentionally do something to cause harm to another person, but sometimes even well intentioned actions can be harmful. The following points are examples of words or actions that people have directed towards me or someone I know that has been hurtful to that person.
– Saying you’re sorry that a person has a disability. People born with a disability have no control over them having or not having a disability. They’re stuck with it whether they like it or not. Feeling sorry for someone with a disability only causes them to feel sorry for themselves, which never gets anyone anywhere in life. A disability can be a gift if viewed as such and the God given talents and abilities can be heightened if society as a whole did not feel sorry for people with disabilities.
– Always aiding people with disabilities. The best thing you can do for a person with a disability is let them learn how to do things under their own power. Granted I know a person with a disability can’t do everything on their own, but they can do some things. It’s our responsibility to hold people with disabilities accountable to do the things they’re capable of doing. In the long run it’s more beneficial to teach a person to fish rather than handing them a fish. Unfortunately the disabled population has too many things handed to them and it doesn’t help them as much as learning to do things for themselves.
-Holding assumptions to be true while having little to no evidence to back them up. The best thing you can do to help a person with a disability is not assume anything about them. You can never know what a person is capable of unless you spend time knowing who they are. In my experiences walls have been put up by people with disabilities because one or a few people made some very faulty and damaging assumptions about them. you can help be a reason this wall is broken down if you’re willing to ask important questions to people with disabilities. These kinds of questions are neither inappropriate or offensive. If you ask and get a defensive response that largely rests on the shoulders of the person receiving the question, not you.
I write this not to shame those who are guilty of these things but to simply create awareness so such things happen less. Like I stated before, you can be a part of the solution or add to the problem. I hope and pray you’ll choose the former and not the latter.