The city of Guelph is a vibrant and bustling city. There are libraries, markets, schools, and museums for the public to visit and explore. You may notice out of the corner of your eye that there are accommodations made for people with disabilities at these spaces. Next to stairs, you’ll see ramps set up so people in a wheelchair can enter the room as well. Public transit has elevators and escalators set up for the people with mobility issues. However, even though we see these alternate routes and accommodations every day, we often forget about people with disabilities and what they go through. Many of us are ignorant to the personal struggles of the disabled, dealing with changes to their quality of life or legal claims against those responsible. We have a society-wide blanket of silence over many of these issues. This leads to people having misconceptions and believing myths of disability and chronic illness. The exception to this unfortunate affliction is the people who deal with disabilities themselves, and their friends and family. In order for disabled people to be fairly treated in society, we must shatter the myths and lies that surround their status. Read on for five of the most damaging myths that your average person may believe about someone who lives with a disability.
Myth #1: Disabilities Are Visible and Easily Spotted
We’ve all heard someone complain when they see a person park in a disabled spot in the parking lot, then walk to the store unimpeded. People often complain about their neighbours or passersby faking symptoms to take advantage of the social security net. We make allowances for the person who is using a wheelchair or a cane, but someone without these devices is often doubted. The term for a disability that cannot be spotted by eye alone is called an “invisible disability”. These include visual and auditory disabilities, a “sitting” disability like chronic back pain or joint issues, or illnesses and conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, sleep disorders, mental illness, or cancer. The general public may not be as aware. It is only recently that people with disabilities are afforded a global stage to raise visibility for their conditions through the Internet. However, the general public is still behind on awareness of invisible disabilities.
Myth #2: A Disabled Person’s Life is the Same, Day In and Day Out
When a person is disabled, they face limits every day. However, they have different energy levels, levels of pain, and ability to face challenges on a day to day basis. Some people will become suspicious or skeptical after they see a person with a disability go out for the night or participate in certain activities. After all, if someone is disabled, they shouldn’t be able to do those things – right? People with disabilities actually have to cope with limited amounts of energy. Disabled activist Christine Miserandino wrote a piece called “The Spoon Theory” on the support group “But You Don’t Look Sick”. The Spoon Theory came about when a close friend of Miserandino asked her what it was like to live with lupus. Miserandino grabbed a handful of spoons and used them as props in her explanation. This edited excerpt from the Spoon Theory is a great explanation of what a person with a disability deals with every day:
“I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus”. I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted. I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn’t even started yet. I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon.”
Miserandino’s friend quickly learns that every action, even ones as simple as getting dressed or having a shower, led to the loss of a spoon. It’s important to note that for many people, they do not have the same energy levels every day. Someone may be capable of going out one day and housebound the other; they may be able to work part time but not handle a 40 hour week. One day of high energy does not invalidate the entire disability, nor does one low energy day mean that is the standard for a person with disabilities.
Myth #3: Every Person With the Same Disability Faces the Same Issues and Restraints
This myth builds off the previous one. When people believe that a person with disability faces the exact same challenges every day, they often believe that everyone who shares that disability must face the same challenges. Two people with joint pain may have a completely different set of limitations and challenges. Two people with bipolar disorder may have radically different triggers and reactions. Knowing someone with a disability is a great start to shattering myths, but it’s important to remember that people with disabilities are not a monolith, and one person’s disability does not give you insider knowledge on another person’s life.
Myth #4: Multiple Disabilities Do Not Meaningfully Interact With One Another
When you do not live with disabilities, it’s a reasonable assumption that someone with multiple disabilities tends to deal with them one at a time. However, going past this surface assumption shows you that illnesses and disabilities will interact with one another. 82% of adults with disabilities have more than one type of disability, and 36% have four or more types. These disabilities interact with one another, and are more prevalent than commonly believed. Unfortunately, when we hear someone mention that they have multiple disabilities and list them off, we may be dubious. Sometimes people with disabilities are called hypochondriacs and brushed off, or told that they are suffering from Munchausen Syndrome. An injury lawyer must deal with people who have suffered multiple disabilities as the result of an accident or injury, and determine the cost of their treatments.
Myth #5: A Disability Can Always Be Treated By Modern Medicine
If you look on Facebook or watch the news, you’ll sometimes see “miracle stories” of people with disabilities overcoming the odds. There are claims that someone who was told they would never walk again eventually defied that diagnosis, or that someone who struggled with immense depression and mania eventually learned to even out thanks to exercise and vitamins. There are also claims that someone with a disability must seek treatment. While someone who is disabled should be consulting with medical experts, the issue is that their friends and families sometimes expect an “end date” on that medical care. Many disabilities are lifelong, and there is no point at which you can stop taking medicine or participating in therapy. In the event an individual was wrongly injured, An injury lawyer can often pursue the resources to cover these lifelong treatments for their client. Disabilities are not like a bad flu or a broken bone – they may never really end. Instead, people with disabilities are encouraged to try to “manage” their symptoms, not cure them.
If you or someone you love lives with a disability, you know how frustrating it can be. The fact that these myths persist and influence how others see your disability only makes things worse. Society needs people who can advocate for those who are struggling with their disability. An injury lawyer is often one of those people, especially after a terrible accident. If you, a friend, or a family member needs the services of a qualified and compassionate lawyer in Guelph, contact Wynperle Law. We can help restore your quality of life and assist you with adjusting to a life post-accident.