Misconceptions Cause Challenges For People With Disabilities
There is as much diversity among people with disabilities as among the general population. Additionally, types of disabilities are many and varied. For these reasons, every person with a disability faces a unique set of challenges each and every day just as we all do. Be that as it may, there are some challenges that all people with disabilities face every day. These are made up of the preconceived notions of others.
Due to lack of information, misunderstanding, fear, ignorance or insecurity many people have a faulty perception of members of the disabled community. Here are some of the common attitudinal barriers people with disabilities face in others:
Patronization: People who pity or feel sorry for people with disabilities often treat them and unintentionally patronizing manner.
Being put on a pedestal: Very often, people with disabilities find themselves praised excessively and unreasonably for simply being able to carry out activities of daily living. This is a way of excessively focusing on the persons disabilities rather than simply acknowledging his or her abilities.
Being treated as an inferior: This also manifests as enhanced awareness of the person’s disability and little or no awareness of that person’s capability. The difference is that rather than being “put on a pedestal” the person is looked down upon.
Dismissive Attitude: People who jump in to do things for people with disabilities are often simply ignorant of the fact that the person can take care of these tasks him or herself and would prefer to do so. This dismissive attitude is also apparent when a person with a disability is left out of an activity, event or opportunity on the assumption that the person would be incapable of participating.
Spread Effect: People who make the assumption that a person with a disability is affected in an overall manner by his or her disability is exhibiting the spread effect. Examples of this include people who shout when talking to blind people or speak very slowly when talking with a person using a wheelchair.
Stereotyping: Many people assume that all blind people have an enhanced sense of smell or that all people with Down syndrome are innocent and sweet. There are many stereotypes that people unthinkingly apply to people with disabilities. It is important to remember that the disabled community is made up of a very diverse population of individuals each with his or her own unique traits and abilities.
Inappropriate Jealousy: People who misunderstand the rules and regulations surrounding accommodation for people with disabilities sometimes believe that the disabled are given special privileges or unfair advantages. This is not the case. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) seeks only to level the playing field to provide equal opportunity and access.
Denial of the disability: Very often people who experienced hidden disabilities such as epilepsy, arthritis, cancer, heart conditions or psychiatric conditions encounter denial of their disability. It is important to understand that under the ADA, a disability is defined as an impairment that limits one or more major life activities of daily living. When this is the case, accommodation must be made for the disability – even if it is a hidden disability.
Avoidance: Sometimes people are afraid of saying or doing something wrong or embarrassing when dealing with a person with a disability. They cope with this fear by simply avoiding people with disabilities; however, it would make more sense to seek out encounters as a way of overcoming the fear.
What Can You Do?
People with disabilities face many challenges in everyday life, but coping with the attitudes of others is one you can really help with. You can remove a stumbling block and provide inclusion and access by dealing with people with disabilities just as you would anyone else. Be respectful, polite and inclusive. Listen carefully, and if you have problems understanding, politely say so. Offer assistance, but don’t just jump in and do things for a person with a disability without asking. The more time you spend with people with disabilities, the more comfortable you will become.