“I need you, like a poet needs the pain.”
~ Bon Jovi
Hey there everyone!!
It’s fascinating — the various ways in which persons with disabilities are regarded and treated in our society/culture. Throughout my life, I have dealt with several disabilities, friends and families with disabilities, and have noticed how thousands of people respond to those disabilities.
What I share, therefore, is my experience, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of all people with disabilities. Nevertheless, I believe my understanding of human psychology and spiritual development would have the following points be beneficial to anyone and everyone, regardless of any disability that may be present.
1. Don’t Over-Compensate for My Minimal Compensations
Yes, people with disabilities have some perks from governments, corporations, and even the general community. Some seem to believe that these “perks” more than compensate for the disability itself (verbally and/or energetically). It does not.
For example, my annual T.T.C. (Toronto Public Transit) pass is FREE. But do you know how often I get off at the wrong stop because of an untrained, incompetent, rude, or otherwise insensitive driver? Do you know how much money it costs me in cab fares to make up for lost distance? It is more than the cost of an annual pass (not to mention the lost opportunities). Sometimes I wish I had walked instead of taking the TTC. (If the thought that you wish you would walk sometimes instead of taking the TTC too, then please refer to point number three below.)
These are only small examples of a multitude of experiences that cannot easily be conveyed in the scope of one article. More generally, it just costs people with disabilities at least twice the money as the average person just to be functional in society.
2. Don’t Treat My Blessings as Your Prerequisites
Only recently did I finally have the right to have a Disability Parking Permit (as a passenger in a vehicle). Some people expect me to remember to bring this with me all the time when I see them. It’s a new habit, and I may forget. But why am I so bad for forgetting?
I get a 2-for-1 deal on movies and many attractions. Some people have just come to expect that as perk of our friendship. That’s fine – I like helping people save money. However, with every power comes great responsibility. Why not strain your neck a little bit, so we can sit up front and so I can actually see more clearly? Why not make an effort to share visual information that I may be missing, especially if it is pertinent to a storyline or an interactive experience? Yes, I understand the power of an authentic request, too.
3. Your Perceived Disability is Only a Subset of My Disabilities
Some try to relate by pointing to their challenges in life. However, it is rarely a fair comparison. Most examples given to me (e.g., not being able to recognize people, getting constant sun stroke), are only small subsets of the entire range of challenges which encompass my overall disability.
Physical abuse and sexual abuse are not disabilities and many people need to deal with these serious life challenges. However, people with disabilities are more likely to have experienced physical or sexual abuse statistically. We don’t need to look that up, because a predator would logically target someone who is physically or mentally unable to respond.
4. Disabilities Compound on Each Other
Many people with disabilities have multiple disabilities, because there is a domino effect to having a severe disability. All my sight issues are distinct from all my skin issues, which are all distinct from all the social stigma issues, which are all distinct from all the accessibility issues. Those categories just came off the top of my head, and I’m sure there’re plenty more which I usually don’t think about because I’m such a positive person and don’t focus on that kind of stuff.
Each category has within it a subset of infinite categories. For example, in accessibility, we have software accessibility, which has web site accessibility compliance, which has HTML language specifications and the Accessible Rich Internet Applications layer. If you’ve never heard these terms in this category, then consider all the things you may not be aware of in all the other categories.
5. Though Things Look Better, They Are Actually Worse
It’s great that the TTC has automated stop announcements. It some ways, it does make a big difference and allows more people (children, elders, tourists, infrequent riders–not just the disabled) to easily navigate a busy city (it took a multimillion dollar law suit). However, it also takes the onus off of the driver to take any action and help specific people in special circumstances. In other words, the driver has become a robot, and there is no human to communicate with anymore.
Corporations and governments have used the environmental movement, charitable giving, fair trade, and now accessibility standards, as a means to improve their public image. This does not necessarily mean they do good work — but rather are concerned about looking good and continuing to make more money in the process of looking good. Psychologically, this has people feel good, because they think their support of these ineffective campaigns are sufficient enough to relieve any social obligation for them.
As an example, Apple is horrible as complying at accessibility standards and have, in that sense, prevented me and thousands of other people from making iPhone applications and providing more value and solutions to society.
6. Help Without Doing — Be Empowering
When I was moving into a new apartment, I asked one of my close friends to come over and help me assemble my IKEA furniture. When my friend arrived, I thought he would start opening boxes right away. Rather, he just sat there and said, “You are doing all the assembly yourself… I’ll be your eyes. When you need to see something, let me know. Now go assemble your furniture.” What a great feeling to know that I assembled my own furniture! (And have such a great friend.)
7. Don’t Assume My Desires
Sometimes groups of friends or co-workers don’t invite me to events because they think the event will not be appropriate for me (e.g., not accessible, outside all day in the sun). Why not just ask me and let me decide for myself?
Firstly, even if I cannot go, I will feel included as a valuable member of the group, instead of feeling forgotten about, left-out, and isolated. Second, I may be able to find ways to make the situation work (as people with disabilities are usually very resourceful and creative). Finally–although least significantly–I may be able to get us discounts, front-row, front-of-the-line, or V.I.P. service. 🙂
8. Everything is Part of a Spectrum
Some people understand sight and blindness, yet have little comprehension that there is actually a spectrum of optical and visual capability. This is true for every disability, and in fact, every character trait that us humans have.
Did you hear in the news recently how a legally blind woman could not get seats to a Stevie Wonder concert? How ironic, especially when venues tout that they have “accessible seating”. For the visually impaired, sitting in the front row is not a luxury, but a necessity, and venues could allow for that provision.
9. When We Help People with Disabilities, We Are Helping Everybody
Isn’t a chain only as strong as the weakest link? So when we help people with disabilities, we are actually helping everybody because we are having all of society be functional.
What happened to all for one and one for all? Aren’t we all in this together? We may easily dismiss someone with a disability, and yet many of us will end up with a disability (statistically) before we die.
OK, so you may not know anyone with a disability, so why not just help people in difficult situations? Help people overcome physical pain. If you don’t know people in difficult situations, you could simply make difficult conversations easy. There are so many different ways to be a giving person. Check out these simple attributes of cool people that we could apply ubiquitously.
If you’re interested in supporting people with disabilities at a macro level, then check out our Party for People with Special Needs. Among many things, we can help you run in the next provincial election and be a voice for those who need it the most.
This is about people with disabilities, so this is about everybody. This is about you. This is about our world.
“Keep on fighting the good fight and/or
allowing yourself to feel and let things go.”
~ Allison Bernadette Long
Let’s love the world together…
[)anish /|hmed, blind visionary
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