Theo Braddy examines myths, stereotypes and assumptions about people with disabilities.
As I continue to advocate and educate people about the ongoing misconceptions that influence the way we think and interact with people with diverse disabilities, I continue to explore new ways to change mindsets. One particular thing that came to mind is when we are born into this world as babies. Explore this with me!
When we are born, we are born disabled! According to Webster disabled is defined as, unable to perform one or more natural activities such as walking or seeing. So, as a newly born baby, we can clearly agree that the inability to walk is a disability.
The ADA even defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. Major life activities include walking, working, seeing, and hearing, etc.
See where I am going with this? All of us come into this world disabled!
We then begin to seek assistance and accommodations in order to better function in life, so that we can become more independent and self-sufficient. We seek help from our parents to learn how to rollover. We get help as our parents guide us with our first steps. We use baby walkers and baby swings, but eventually, we get there and we take our first independent steps. We receive our applauses and we are then on our way to greater independence, but we still need help, so we continue to depend on others because we are only beginning to learn how to live well.
As we continue our quest for self-sufficiency as budding disabled people, we start using other adaptive equipment, such as our first pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses.
As we get older, we quickly realize we need to be more efficient in order to be more self-sufficient. We start to use more expensive adaptive equipment such as tricycles, skates, skateboards and bikes.
Older still we recognize the need for greater, more expensive adaptive equipment such motorcycles and automobiles.
We then learn that we need reasonable accommodations in order to better achieve our goals in life and better navigate our communities and world, so we get smartphones and laptops and other productivity gadgets.
These items are essential and necessary, so they are readily available since our parents and government know we need these things in order to be self-sufficient, so they accept our disabilities because everyone wants us to become productive tax-paying citizens.
No one would neglect providing these items because it's natural and is part of the growth process.
From birth, through young adulthood, through middle age, through older adulthood we use a host of adaptive equipment and reasonable accommodations, all designed for us to be contributing member of society and no one put up too much of a fuss about it. It's expected!
It is amazing to me, the writer, the advocate, the husband, the father, the person with a disability that no one sees anything wrong with all the assistance and accommodations people without disabilities receive because they are looked upon as not being disabled and deserving when the reality is we are all disabled.
Only when we are born with a physical disability or acquire a disability or when we all truly start aging into disabilities, aging into major limitations again in life in the areas of walking, seeing, hearing, and working do this eagerness to assist turns into punitive and thought as being undeserving in nature.
When we accept that we are all disabled, we will have a better society! Believe it or not, we need to accept that we are born into this world disabled and eventually we may leave it disabled, as we age into disabilities.
When we can accept that in between being born and dying, we all need a certain amount of assistance and we all use adaptive equipment and reasonable accommodations in order to be more self-sufficient and independent.
Stop looking at people with disabilities as a burden on society, objects of charity, second-class citizens, looking for a handout. If people with disabilities are viewed this way, then people without disabilities should be viewed this way, because they too needed help when they were first born into this world and WE all still do!
So what happened? Did you forget everyone uses adaptive equipment and require reasonable accommodations? Did you forget that everyone needs help in overcoming their limitations when they are born and when they go through their life cycle? What happened?
Theo Braddy is the CEO of the Center for Independent Living of Central PA and an Adjunct Professor at Millersville University with a course on Discrimination and Oppression of People with Disabilities. Mr. Braddy also does a community blog on WITF on Dispelling Myths About People with Disabilities.