Thursday, June 12, 2008

I know you don't realize it, but...

Yesterday, we had a staff meeting at my place of employment. Well, during the meeting, I heard at least two people say, "Everybody has a disability." Here's some insight about the two that said it... Neither one of them actually have a disability, mental or physical. They may indeed have some issues that are deemed as less than perfect. But disabled… I don’t think so.

So why did they say that everyone has a disability?
Well, I think that they were sincerely trying to make us disabled folks not feel alone in this "awful life" that we are being forced by God to live.

"Don't worry, Angela. I'm disabled too. You're blind. And I... Um... Well, I'm allergic to peanuts."
“Don’t worry, young man. I know you can’t walk due to being paralyzed from the chest down, but I’m disabled too. I have to drink coffee every morning, or I’ll be falling asleep at my desk.”
“Hey young lady. Don’t feel so bad about being def. I’m disabled too. Don’t you see all this acne all over my face that I can’t get rid of?
“I know you might not have a right arm, young veteran… Don’t feel bad… I can’t manage to remember to pay my bills on time.”
“I know that you have multiple personalities, but I have multiple colors of hair. I just can’t seem to get this gray out of my aging hair.”

Forgive me... But that's how ridiculous it sounds for someone that does not have a physical or mental disability, trying to tell me, a blind woman, or any other person with a significant disability that they are disabled too.

For the record, a shortcoming, a challenge, a personality flaw is not a disability.
A disability is a physical and/or mental condition/impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.
So, let me further break this down for you.
A person needing to wear reading glasses to read the print in a telephone book is not disabled. But a person that needs to put a two inch magnifying glass over the pages of the telephone book just to slowly read one word at a time while their strained eyes are watering may indeed qualify as disabled.
A person that can't walk in heels because their knees hurt is not disabled. But if you can't stand up and walk from your bed to the bathroom without falling over, you are definitely disabled.
If you have a headache from time to time, you are not disabled. But if you have chronic migraines that make it hard for you to be around any sounds, to lift your head from the pillow, and to make it throughout the day without taking prescription drugs to manage the pain, you may indeed be disabled.
“If you have to wear an incontinence pad because of you not being able to hold your urine until you get to the bathroom does not make you disabled. But if you need assistance to transfer from your wheelchair to the toilet, that may indeed qualify you as disabled.
If you’re having a bad day and folks are getting on your nerves, you don’t have a mental disability. But if you are hearing voices, can’t manage your vacillating emotions, cannot sleep for days unless you have a prescribed sleeping aid, you are certainly disabled.

Basically, a disability significantly impacts a person’s ability to live independently, to do daily tasks that come easy to others, such as bathing, toileting, cooking, driving, walking, reading a book, and so on… A disability significantly impacts a person’s ability to prepare for, find, and maintain employment.
A real disability creates barriers that require you to need tools, equipment, and comprehensive strategies to bring those barriers down.

So, the next time you want to make a disabled person feel included, be nice, be respectful, be friendly, be compassionate, be understanding.
But whatever you do, do not minimize their physical and/or mental challenges by somehow trying to make your shortcomings equal to a disability. It just ain’t cool.

Peace,

Angela B.

8 comments:

Amy Hahn said...

This really made me look at disabilites in a different light. I suffer from Bi-Polar disorder so I have a some what challenge in life, but medication helps me cope with my rollercoster emotions.

Rahila Bham said...

I think you are right about this. I really like you in our class you are really nice teacher I talk to my mom about you and she is really impress. I think it is good to think positive if a person need to success in their career and life.

Cheryl Henao said...

Ms. Braden
I think this is a very insightful blog that everyone should read. I don't have a disability but back in New York I worked as a Direct Care Counselor for mentally disabled people. I was able to see what they had to go through everyday and how people would react to them in public. Some people you could tell felt sorry for them. Other people didn't know how to react and would stare, gasp, point , whisper amongst themselves. This would aggravate my group as well as myself because they understood what was going on but don't have a way to express themselves.

Anonymous said...

This story teaches all of us to learn a different perspective of disabilities. People think sometimes in a very unsensitive way and bring their small short term disabilities amd try to make them very serious issues and insist their disabilities are important that the natural disabilities. Saira Neely

Anonymous said...

This is definitely something that i've noticed in my own life experiences. I think part of it has to do with people trying to not only evoke a sense of empathy but also to help them rationalize their own shortcomings. It also seems as if people are uncomfortable around disabled people and do not know how to effectively communicate with them. Alot of it just seems like people are uncomfortable around disabled people and are unsure how to connect with them.

Aaron Lindquist

c.brooks said...

I pray that people would truly give the time to put themselves in another persons place before they speak. It is unbelievable that there is many people out there that are clueless to what they are saying. I don't understand how they have made it to adulthood and not realize the impact of their words. I know some people truly don't see it. But I still don't understand why? Is it so hard to be compassionate, make an effort to educate yourself to different cultures, or place yourself in another persons position? I don't think so. I can only pray for people. c.brooks

Anonymous said...

Like if you chose to be disabled, shame on those people who even dare to say that everyone has a disability. Yeah, it may be a weakness that everyone does have, but not a disabality. It is worse, rude, and emberrasing to say a false statement rather than not approaching ones situation at all. Ms,Braden you are educating me, and I truly thank you.

Anonymous said...

These folks really need to get a productive job, and live a productive life. They seem to be poking fun at the unfortunate ones in our society who have infirmities which drastically encroach on their quality of life. Please don't compare your coffee habits and allergic reactions to peanuts to my 100%, 60%, & 40% infirmities caused by military service. Sounds like Saturday Night Live sarcasm thrown at people who genuinely suffer. Thank you nincompoops for exposing what some of our society really think of our efforts to provide freedom for the disrespectful of the world.