Joyce has a hidden disability. And it will stay hidden until you/me/ they start talking about it.
Others, might have a more obvious disability. Those without hands, legs, or worse disabilities. These are the people we prefer not to see when walking in Malls or go shopping. It’s so much easier to ignore such people… if there is a crutch or wheel chair in sight – use another route! After all: It might be contagious! Much easier to simply/ blindly donate annually to those who paint with their feet than getting involved on other levels.
Even in professional settings, people rather prefer wholesome ‘whole’ people to handle and manage their problems.
Disability is a curse word, something which I in my ‘previous’ life (so to say) also seldom paid attention to. Similar to so many others, I considered any disability as something I really do not want to get close to (I still don’t …)
Do you perhaps recognise the following -
Averting your eyes when in the company of someone with a mental problem (speak louder and in more Grade 2 wording…) Or seeing someone on crutches or in a wheel chair? If there is a disability or handicap, we often also think these people may be stupid as well. Think about it! There are many ways, in which we can conduct general living without actually ‘seeing’ people with handicaps.
People with any disability, fight against many obstacles. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and accompanying other possible physical problems (or mental) that result from the disease/accident. On the other hand, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions. As a result of both, they are often robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, good relationships, sex life; and affiliation with a diverse group of people. Although research has gone far to understand the impact of ‘disability’, it has only recently begun to explore stigmas involved.
Since I became one of those classified as ‘disabled’, I also remember so many things I did in my youth, unfair to those with handicaps –
When in Std 5 (nowadays Grade 7, I presume) there was Pierre*, who walked 3km uphill to visit me (and all the 3km back), while I hid in the bedroom and asked my Dad to tell him I am not home…
How embarrassing!! A possible boyfriend with a limp, who had to walk with a cane? I think in retrospect, I am the one who should be embarrassed…Because of my prejudices (even if I did not even know or understand the word prejudice at that stage).
During 2007, my father experienced a mid-brain-stem-stroke. He was one of the fortunate who eventually recovered most abilities (after couple of years and very hard work). I still hear his voice as he shared with me his experiences in the Rehab-Centre – when in a wheel chair, people think you are also brain-dead. They keep shouting in your ear in the most basic language, also not speaking to you directly, but calling you by title, him/he/she or others….
As in a previous post, I need to repeat myself – disabilities can be viewed many ways.
Nr. 1 – Disabled, is a term we increasingly use in BEE/EE governmental reports. Companies get very nice reviews/points for appointing ‘disabled’s’. So…get used to this label whether you like it or not.
Nr. 2 - Being handicapped or disabled, does not necessarily mean people are stupid as well.
Nr.3 – This also count towards mental problems. Depression, Bi-polar, what ever, - it also does not mean you are brain dead.
Nr.4 – Due to above, there is also Self-stigma involved. Besides fighting against our own disability, against social stigma; you also fight against self-stigma. The prejudice which people with any disability turn against themselves… Loosing self-concept, self-esteem, and so much other.
But I really don’t like the word disabled. Handicapped, maybe. Challenged, an even better word. Because in all research or articles, no-one mentions the challenges these people have to face. Disabled in my opinion, means someone somewhere pulled a plug and you are totally utterly worthless without any say in the matter. Which most 'disableds' are NOT.
Maybe, we should also start celebrating differences. If we can (try to) do this with different cultures, we surely can do this with so-called disabled’s as well. And the 'Disabled's/Challenged of us, should also start realising we do not have to believe or live by labels and/or stigmas.
Maybe us disabled’s – challenged - should especially focus on the contributions we can still offer to society, instead of getting stuck in labels or what we cannot do!