Society And The Disabled

How Do You See The Disabled?
How Do You See The Disabled?

The medical aspects of a disability are undeniable.  A person who is disabled whether from birth or through accident or illness has certain impairments that disallow them full physical or mental function.

Wherein the past society has referred to such individuals as handicapped a new designation has now been made and we refer to such people as 'the disabled'.

'Fostering Accessibility'
'Fostering Accessibility'

Society has also made physical changes to enhance the lives of those members of society who have a disability through providing accommodations such as allocated parking and wheelchair ramps. This practice has become known as 'fostering accessibility'. Those who have disabilities in our current society have greater access to shopping, restaurants, office buildings, and even medical facilities then people did even twenty years ago. Public parks, campgrounds and nature trails have also been designed to allow people with disabilities to enjoy the benefits of these public areas that were formerly off limits to them.

'There are none so blind as those who cannot see.'
'There are none so blind as those who cannot see.'

An area where society has failed to move forward is in their referring to and their addressing of people who have disabilities. As a society we habitually address the disability before addressing the person. I first became aware of this when my husband was injured in a cave in that resulted in a severe foot and leg injury. I was constantly asked about his 'disability' rather than about him. I was equally constantly at a loss for how to answer and it took me some time to figure out the reason was I saw him and not the disability.  Maybe this is because I grew up with it.   My grandmother, who was confined to a wheelchair after a leg amputation, lived with us. The only time I can recall having any attention on her 'disability' was when my mother would double park the car or leave it where it was blocking another vehicle while she dashed in to one place or another. She would always leave the keys and tell my grandmother to move it if anybody came. It was a 1954 Rover and I could not for the life of me figure out how my grandmother was supposed to "move it". This is when I learned to pray, hard and fast.

Our language is the blind man or the disabled woman rather than the man who is blind or the woman who has a disability. This language indicates that we perceive the disability before perceiving the person. Doing so colours our interactions with those who have a disability. While those of us who have able bodies base our interactions with each other based on who we are the same regard is not extended to those who have a disability.  Rather it is seen that the person is their disability.

As you or I would find it disconcerting to have somebody talk about us as though we were not there so do does the person with a disability.  The sad fact is though that more often than not people will speak to or ask questions of the companion rather than addressing the person with the disability directly.  They are people first and their disability may be well down the list in the broader spectrum of all that they are. 

There are any number of false precepts about people with disabilities that interfere with our interactions with them.  There are those among us who actually resent the fact that people with disabilities get 'disability benefits'.  As I have stated in my hub, Disability Discrimination Equals A Lack Of Respond Ability,disability benefits is an oxymoron.  A few of the other assumptions that interfere with our relationships with the disabled are, the disabled person needs or wants assistance; a person who has one disability also has others (eg. they are hard of hearing or are language impaired); they are unhappy with life and only want you to feel sorry for them; they are easily offended; their companion is only there to look after them.  

You ask a the person with a disability if they require assistance the same way you would ask anyone else.  If they do require help ask what they need or want rather than assuming that you know, just as you would for an able bodied person.  If they turn down your offer of assistance it is no more a personal affront than it would be for anyone else saying "No thank you." 


We are in this world together.
We are in this world together.

The common assumptions we make and the misconceptions we have about those among us who live with disabilities serve only to add to the challenges they face on a daily basis.  It is not their problem that we have forgotten that they are people first and that as such they deserve the same respect and regard as we would give any other member of our society.  We extend ourselves, lend ourselves and reach out to each other every day of our lives.  The same rule applies whether able bodied or no, you treat others the way you want to be treated.

More by this Author

Comments 15 comments

SomewayOuttaHere profile image

SomewayOuttaHere 6 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

right on again!

raisingme profile image

raisingme 6 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia Author

My ability to be right on has been brought on by an over abundance of experience.

MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

What a great hub. Good on you for pointing this out, people who have disabilities are people first. Rated up, well done RM.

raisingme profile image

raisingme 6 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia Author

Thank you. I sincerely hope that this hub serves to help people recognize that we are all people first and that we are not our "stuff" or the challenges we face.

akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Terrifically personal hub for me as my son is 'disabled' though he tries so hard not to be. He is totally discriminated against because of his vision. It fluctuates so much that he can be severely low vision one day and legally blind the next - and he just found out he has a cataract in his remaining eye to go along with all the other problems. It is a horrible thing to say but he would be 'better off' if he were blind - in terms of getting services and help. He has to walk to bus stops at all hours of the day and night and an 8-hour day usually takes him about 12-15 to work and commute since he cannot obviously drive. And still he fights for just getting transportation help! Totally frustrating as he is one of the kindest, gentlest, incredibly intelligent people you could ever meet - though I may be a tad prejudiced. The looks though that folks sometimes give him because of his vision, I'd like to smack them all but he actually deals with it quite well....unlike his ma!

raisingme profile image

raisingme 6 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia Author

It is hardest when it is your child and to see your child treated as something less than human is excruciating. We really do need to start pulling together as a human family. You must be incredibly proud of your son and deservedly so! Thank you for lending your story to the driving home of my hub topic. Bless you both.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

People would talk to me rather than to my Mum, after her stroke, and she would stick her tongut out behind their backs. I was glad she retained her sense of humour but found it hard to keep a straight face.

raisingme profile image

raisingme 6 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia Author

When someone would ask my mother how my grandmother lost her leg my grandmother would pipe up from her wheelchair, "A giant bit it!" It is amazing how people perceive that a disability translates into no ability whatsoever.

Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 6 years ago from Bismarck, ND

My daughter has cp and is in a wheelchair and I can honestly say I am very fortunate in how society treats my daughter. Many people have told me they see her as a person first before they see her disability. People are constantly coming up and talking to her - maybe it's because she has such a beautiful smile or it's just her wonderful personality. The hardest time I have is when other kids stare at her - I really feel like asking them if their parents have taught them any manners.

Anyway, great hub!

raisingme profile image

raisingme 6 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia Author

Celebral Palsy children and adults rock my world. It takes a very hard person indeed or a very preoccupied one to fail to respond to them. I wish all of us could be so delightful! We could all take lessons from them, including those of us with disabilities.

izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

raisingme~ great hub and close to my heart along with some of the other commenters. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis- a recent diagnosis, but already debilitating. I think I must be in a separate group because I am applying for disability benefits but the just say we know you can't work right now but maybe someday you can, well someday doesn't pay the bills and they hav given me no prodctive information on what I am capable of doing. I can't work and I'm not disabled "enough" so it's been a huge blow to not fit into either category. My disability is not completely noticeable so that makes it harder. When I open a door, it kills my hands, excruciating pain, and often I get dirty looks if I am unable to hold it open long enough for the person behind me. Sometimes I am really slow and people look at me, age 35, fairly fit, and wonder what my problem is. Yes it's tough and I'm glad you wrote this hub.

Cari Jean~ I wanted to address your comment about other kids staring at you daughter. I do not mean any disrespect first of all, but I think most of the time they are trying to understand and a parent making or teaching their child to not look will make them want to know why they can't look, is it shameful to be curious. I think it is best for kids to familiarize and be curious about how those with disabilities handle life and cope with challenges- it is encouraging. I definitely do not think parents should allow rude comments though- manners should be taught for that. I remember as a kid I watched, ok stared, at other kids with disabilities to learn about them and eventually familiarizing myself with them, made me want to get to know more. Maybe I am rude for looking at people who handle life better than me with less ability- I think it's encouraging. I got stared at a lot being the tallest girl growing up, but I never took it personally. How does your daughter feel about other kids staring, maybe since it is likely to happen, you can make it positive and not saying anything in front of her like those kids should get some manners, but instead say they're just curious or ask her about times when she has wanted to stare at something or someone because she was curious. Maybe a strange example but my dad is a transsexual and I have totally gotten used to people staring, but at the same time I don't blame them. I'd rather people try to understand or figure things out for themselves than feel ashamed to want to know more. I really hate when people try to not look on purpose or act like anything is different- fact is there is something different and we should not all be the same.

raisingme profile image

raisingme 6 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia Author

We have been through the above with my husband. Disability benefits, oxymoron that it is, does not appear to apply to those unable to work but to those unfortunate enough be wholly dependent on others. I agree with you to on children and 'staring'. Children take in a lot of information by observing others and their environment. It is teaching children what to do with the information that they take on board that is the challenge. Children who have been overly admonished for staring turn into adults who won't look. Being invisible, unseen, put into a state of nonexistence is far worse than been stared at by a child. People with disabilities are like anyone else, they are individuals and as such have individual reactions and responses.

And...if we were all the same....there only need be one of us. izetti, Thank you for your comments and I wish you the best.

Dragon 2 years ago

God, I feel like I shloud be takin notes! Great work

Coralyn 2 years ago

Keep it coming, wretirs, this is good stuff.

Louise 2 years ago

Deep thought! Thanks for corbgitutinn.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article