There are certain things that people with disabilities deal with every day. It varies from person to person, but one similarity is that we all face certain myths and stereotypes about us. Most of these myths are outdated ways of thinking, but are still around nonetheless. Today, I hope to debunk some of these myths and explain why they are harmful to people with disabilities.
Myth 1: You Can Tell We Are Disabled Just by Looking at Us
You can’t tell if someone has a seizure disorder on sight alone, for example. There are visible and invisible disabilities, which lots of people often forget. Thinking that you can tell just by looking at someone is harmful and perpetuates the stereotype that disability looks a certain way. Some people use walkers, some use wheelchairs, some don’t need a mobility device. Some people are in pain all the time. The scope of disability is so vast that to try and tell someone “they don’t look disabled” is rude. You can’t tell, much like you don’t know what someone’s name is without being told.
Myth 2: We Know That Guy You Used to Go to School With
No, I don’t know your cousin’s best friend from 15 years ago who “either had a hearing aid or was blind, I can’t remember.” Do you know everyone with your eye color? With your name? There are a few things wrong with this assumption. There are almost 50 million people in the United States with some form of a disability. I don’t know that many people, and don’t know anyone that does. Then if we narrow that number down to people who have my same (or similar) disabilities, it’s statistically unlikely. There’s not a magic club, we don’t all have matching jackets–as cool as that would be.
I do want to add, in my experience, this myth has become frustratingly more and more true. There are tons of Facebook groups to be part of, I’ve found myself saying “Oh yeah, I know them!” more often. This is a blessing and a curse, really. While it’s good to have a support system of like-minded individuals, it’s not helping the “we don’t all know each other” sentiment.
Myth 3: Yoga is a Magic Cure-All
No. It’s not. It might help a bit, but yoga’s not going to get rid of the disability altogether. And chances are, we know this from experience. Most people offer this (or similar) as advice like they’re the first to think of it. Chances are, we’ve heard it five times that day. It’s nice of you to try and offer help, but we know our bodies. If we say yoga doesn’t really do much, but our medication does, please leave it at that.
Myth 4: We Sit at Home All Day Because We Want To
Trust me, there are days when staying in bed all day sounds like the best idea ever. But doesn’t everyone? I’d love to be able to go out everyday and knock out my todo list, but there are multiple things standing in my way (no pun intended). First and probably most important, I need help. Lots of people with disabilities need assistance getting out of the house, but not enough assistance to actually do so. I have a certain number of care hours a day, and need to get certain things done in that time. Disabled people also often get tired easily. We may want to go out and do something, but we use up our energy for the day.
Myth 5: We Did The Thing, We’re Healed!
Just because we did something we don’t normally do doesn’t mean we can do it perpetually. There are people who can lift 500lbs, but having them do that repeatedly is bad for their bodies. It’s a similar situation. Just not as spectacular. Sometimes you just have a good day and can walk a bit instead of using your wheelchair. Sometimes you can barely get out of bed because you’re in so much pain. What we’re able to do on any given day fluctuates, sometimes even within a given day.
Myth 6: My Friends Are Saints for Being My Friend
My Friends Are Saints for Being My Friend. Trust me, they’re not. I love my friends, but they don’t deserve a Nobel prize for being my friend (although we do joke about that). This sentiment is awkward and frustrating to both the person with a disability and their friends. My friends like me because I’m funny, kind, and usually have snacks. My wheelchair has zero to do with my disability. Heck, I have friends that I met online first, and we were friends long before they knew I was disabled.
Myth 7: We Are An Inspiration For Going to the Shops
I have been called an inspiration for entering Walmart. If needing snacks for a road trip to a concert is inspiring, thank you. But I’m wondering why doing something so trivial as going shopping is inspiring? Is everyone in the shop an inspiration?
Myth 8: We Have to be Watched At All Times by Our Carer
I would lose my mind if I didn’t get any alone time. There are extreme cases where this is true, like for some people with vents who may need constant help. But even that isn’t true for everyone. Most people with disabilities can and will do things independently whenever possible. If you see us in public alone, don’t worry. We know what we’re doing.
Myth 9: We Can’t Do [Thing]
If I could count the number of times I’ve heard “you can’t do that in a wheelchair”, I’d be here all day. I’ve done rock climbing, zip-lining, and horseback riding just to name a few things. I went to college on my own. I have friends with more severe physical disabilities than I do that have gone sky-diving. Trust me when I tell you, if someone wants something bad enough, they’ll figure out a way to get it. Disability doesn’t even factor in.
Myth 10: The Only Disability is a Bad Attitude
This is a simple explanation: No amount of positive thinking is going to make me walk. Trust me, I’ve tried.