Disability is probably not what you think it is…
Hayley reflects on how disability is perceived by the non-disabled and actually felt by the disabled. She then shares her ten most favourite quotes about disability, some of which may stop you in your tracks.
A word that some of us love and others shun.
Some fight for first-person language; others own their disabled labels and wear them with pride.
Some people define themselves by their condition or view it as an incidental part of their identity that they “just happen to have”.
Many build hard-won adaptations into their daily life, while for others, a few minor adjustments are all that is needed to lead a full life. The ease with which support is found impacts how we experience disability and whether our perspective is personal or as a carer.
Our attitude towards disability is, therefore, as personal and unique as each and every one of us. It can be congenital or acquired, intellectual or physical, mild or complex. And those who neither have nor knowingly acquaint themselves with anyone with a disability can, at times, be discriminatory, fearful or patronising towards those who do. Disability, therefore, is a hotly debated topic.
And, as the following pearls of wisdom by high-profile writers show, we have much to learn from each other about how we view and live alongside the sliding scale of our abilities.
Quotes to Ponder:
“I’m not an advocate for disability issues. Human issues are what interest me.
You can’t possibly speak for such a diverse group of people.” – Aimee Mullins– athlete, actress and double amputee
“As useful as diagnoses and labels are when seeking support, we have to learn that no disability or dictionary out there is capable of clearly defining who we are as a person.”- Robert M Hensel – Guinness World Record Holder
“Concentrate on the things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” – Stephen Hawking – physicist and author
“We all have a responsibility to work together to build a world without barriers, prejudice or discrimination. Solutions come from collaborations, so let’s change the world together!” – Martyn Sibley – adventurer and blogger
“Another myth that is firmly upheld is that disabled people are dependent and non-disabled people are independent. No one is actually independent. This is a myth perpetuated by disablism and driven by capitalism – we are all actually interdependent.
“Chances are, disabled or not, you don’t grow all of your food. Chances are, you didn’t build the car, bike, wheelchair, subway, shoes, or bus that transports you. Chances are you didn’t construct your home. Chances are you didn’t sew your clothing (or make the fabric and thread used to sew it). The difference between the needs that many disabled people have and the needs of people who are not labelled as disabled is that non-disabled people have had their dependencies normalised.” – AJ Withers – author
“Society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.” – William J. Brennan, Jr. – US lawyer
“Let’s stop ‘tolerating’ or ‘accepting’ difference as if we’re so much better for not being different in the first place. Instead, let’s celebrate difference because in this world it takes a lot of guts to be different.” – Kate Bornstein – author and actor
“My name is Sarah Gordy. I have Down syndrome, but that’s not all that I am. I
am an actor and a woman first; it is the same for all of us. If you have met one person with Down syndrome, you have met one person. We are all individuals.” – Sarah Gordy – actor
“We absolutely need to change how we define success – and who we allow to define it. Success is a universal concept; there needs to be far greater acknowledgement that it applies to everyone and that it can take many different forms.” – Saba Salman – journalist and author
“Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.” – Martina Navratilova – tennis champion
So, whatever your abilities or areas where you need support, find a mantra that works for you and use it to accompany you when life puts barriers in your way.
By Hayley Newman,
UK, mum of 2, blogger, author, speaker, and inclusion ambassador at Downs Side Up.
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