Being disabled is easy. It is society that makes it hard.
As a physically disabled individual it’s fair to society that the “able-bodied” society struggle to fully accept me just as I am. Recently someone shared that “Society accepts physical disability, for example, those in wheelchairs but still struggle to accept those with mental illnesses.” I thought to myself that is not true. Society is still at odds with disability in general and that’s because there are still so few disabled role models/key figures constantly in the face of society demonstrating that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being disabled.
I believe that society has a small minded view when it comes to disability and they usually stem from the following prejudices:
- If you are disabled – you can only be a Paralympian.
Of course there is nothing wrong with being a Paralympian and I think it’s a great achievement but it’s not the be and end all to an individual who is disabled. My niece, who is wheelchair user, shared a story that whilst she was minding her own business shopping at the Bullring in Birmingham she was approached by this person (that was clearly affected by the London 2012 Paralympics) who started telling her how impressed he is with Paralympians as athletes and that he has a new deep found respect for people like her that are “physically challenged” yet are still so talented at sports. Funnily enough my niece is nowhere near sporty and is solicitor working in Birmingham.
As good as sport is, it’s not all disabled people that will be able to enter that field and find purpose for their live through that route. We should aspire to see disabled people in professional careers, such as MPs, teachers, solicitors, doctors and scientists. Sadly, disabled people are rarely encouraged to reach such heights.
- If you are disabled – you are also “dumb”.
As young child rather than being challenged with the standard education of able-bodied children, I was encouraged to colour and draw because obviously that’s all I was good for. Unfortunately, this concept still hasn’t changed. A parent of a special needs student shared his anger at his son’s specially adapted learning school because they weren’t providing him with qualifications that would help his son to obtain employment and was instead teaching him to be “hired help” on a farm. Despite the fact that his son was clearly gifted they overlooked it because of the environment he was in and pigeon-holed him.
It’s disheartening that in the 21st century disabled people are still labelled as “stupid”.
- If you are disabled – you can’t really do much and just “live off” benefits.
To be fair even able bodied people “live off” benefits so perhaps I’m exaggerating. But seriously consider my story, although I’m disabled I do a lot – I play wheelchair tennis, run my own business, take care of my family and am currently managing the renovation of my house. Disabled people can and do a lot! I’m actually convinced that disabled people can do a lot more than able bodied people, just look at Stephen Hawkins!
Those a just a few of the prejudices I’ve highlighted but there are so much more. Society still has a lot to learn when it comes to disability and it’s up to me, my niece, Stephen Hawkins and others to show society that disability is more than a label. It’s an opportunity to overcome, overthrow and challenge great barriers to achieve the unimaginable.