Theo Braddy examines myths, stereotypes and assumptions about people with disabilities.
Is it wrong for me to hold on to the belief that all persons have worth? To believe that if given the opportunity to fully pursue their dreams and aspirations without physical or attitudinal barriers that anyone can be a productive member of society? Is it wrong for me to believe this about people with disabilities? Is it wrong for me to continue to challenge mainstream society to believe this as well? One of these particular attitudinal barriers is the belief that people with disabilities are a burden on society – that we only take and never contribute.
To Be Judged or Not To Be Judged
I was on my way to deliver a bid for a 2 million dollar contract to a State Department located in the Forum Place building. There are a number of professional agencies and businesses located in the Forum Place building including the Office of Social Security. I was delivering the bid during the lunch hour so as I went into the building; I rolled right along side many other professionals. There is a security officer that all visitors must pass. Bid in hand, I rolled into the building with a trail of other visitors. As we passed the security officer, he looked at me and said, “The Social Security Office is over this way”. I politely told him I was not going to the Social Security Office. He apologized and I went on. I then realized that he had singled me out because of my wheelchair and assumed I was looking for this office to apply for disability or public assistance. Why couldn’t I just be recognized as every other professional or visitor entering into that building, as a person of worth? Instead I was singled out and directed to the Social Security Office. Some may say I am making too much out of this situation. I wish that were the case!
A few weeks ago in Philadelphia, a major disability organization invited all the candidates for Governor to a forum where people with disabilities, along with other advocates could ask the candidates questions to determine their position on issues facing people with disabilities. This makes sense, right? After all, people with disabilities make up one of the largest voting blocks in the United States. When one of the candidates was asked by the Patriot News why he didn’t show up, the candidate stated, “Why would I? My guess is that these people want money.”
Myth #11: People with disabilities are a burden on society.
Reality: This is very far from the truth. Every day people with disabilities, from all walks of life, contribute significantly to the betterment of society.
Unfortunately, society’s opinion about people with disabilities comes from the fact that negative images devaluing persons with disabilities infiltrate today’s literature, movies, news media and television. People with disabilities are portrayed, at best, as having lives no one wants and, at worst, as freaks or deviants. Rarely are they depicted as empowered people with much to contribute to the world around them. Personally, I believe we give a great deal more than we take!
In closing, let me borrow some wisdom from the great philosopher, Martin Luther King – “Let us not be judged by our misshapen bodies, the wheelchairs we use, or our missing limbs, or by the misconceptions held by society, but let us be judged by our character and what we have done to make this world more inclusive for all members of society, including those with disabilities.”