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5 Things About Disability You Probably Misunderstand

Living with a disability is hard. Often, disabilities are invisible or misunderstood by people that don’t experience them. Pulling together my experiences, here are 5 things I’ve found about disability that most people don’t understand.

1) Comparison Helps No One

This is probably my biggest pet peeve with my disability. Either people will tell me that my struggles aren’t that bad because someone has it worse or they will praise me for doing something that I view as part of living my life. Neither of these are helpful to anyone. I may feel more pain than a normal person but I also have a higher pain tThis is probably my biggest pet peeve with my disability. Either people will tell me that my struggles aren’t that bad because someone has it worse or they will praise me for doing something that I view as part of living my life. Neither of these are helpful to anyone. I may feel more pain than a normal person, but I also have a higher pain tolerance than most people. Inspiration porn or stories about this person with all these struggles did it so you can do it too cheapens our stories and is more harmful than good. Just stop comparing struggles. Life is not a contest and trying to make it one just hurts everyone.

2) Not All Tasks Are Created Equal

If you have a disabled person in your life you may find that you think they are okay to do something when in reality that thing is a big struggle. A good example is that for a recent family trip the idea of going to the zoo and the idea of going to a farm were both tossed out. Most people won’t see a difference between these two tasks. You are

If you have a disabled person in your life, you may find that you think they are okay to do something when, in reality, that thing is an enormous struggle. A good example is that for a recent family trip, the idea of going to the zoo and the idea of going to a farm were both tossed out. Most people won’t see a difference between these two tasks. You are going to do stuff with animals and maybe plants and have lots of outdoor activities. But when I look at the tasks, the zoo seems doable, and the farm seems like it would be extremely challenging. I would venture that I couldn’t do the farm without help. Why? Because the zoo takes more measures to be friendly to people with disabilities. They have more paved roads instead of gravel paths. This can make a difference to people who walk with help or people who use wheelchairs as gravel is just harder to manage than a paved road.

Different days can also play a factor. For instance, someone may have a therapy appointment on Tuesday and need a break after where Wednesday, they would be perfectly fine to go out. Different events take up our limited energy and sometimes just how the week gets to us can play an impact. If you are looking to spend time with someone with a disability, be willing to listen and accommodate their needs.

3) We Find Our Dietary Restrictions As Annoying As You Do

This point comes up whenever my family wants to get spicy food. I can’t do peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, or potatoes without it causing pain and inflammation. This can be annoying to them as we decide on places to eat as we need to take my dietary restrictions into account. But I’m usually just as annoyed if not more annoyed than they are because some of the stuff I can’t have is good and I know it. When we go to a waffle and fry place I will wish I could have the fries like everyone else but I know that I can’t without paying for it in pain. It is also not a picnic to go through a menu trying to figure out what you can eat especially when you find things that look so good until This point comes up whenever my family wants to get spicy food. I can’t do peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, or potatoes without it causing pain and inflammation. This can be annoying to them as we decide on places to eat as we need to take my dietary restrictions into account. But I’m usually just as annoyed, if not more annoyed, than they are because some of the stuff I can’t have is good and I know it. When we go to a waffle and fry place, I will wish I could have the fries like everyone else, but I know I can’t without paying for it in pain. It is also not a picnic to go through a menu trying to figure out what you can eat, especially when you find things that look so good, until suddenly it has something you can’t eat in the description. We get your frustration with it, we’re often frustrated too.

4) We usually aren’t faking our disability

I hate disability policing. Yes there are a few people in the world who abuse the system and ignore disabled needs. But more often than not disability policing hurts disabled people more than it helps. When people question our disability it can be exhausting to add proving our disability (especially if it’s hard to see) to whatever task we have set out to do. If we have a wheelchair, it is an expensive tool we likely paid for on our own. If we stand up from a wheelchair, that doesn’t mean we are faking it. I use a wheelchair when I go out for day trips despite the fact that I can technically walk. The reason why I have the wheelchair is that about 30 minutes on my feet and my right leg I hate disability policing. Yes, there are a few people in the world who abuse the system and ignore disabled needs. But more often than not, disability policing hurts disabled people more than it helps. When people question our disability, it’s exhausting to add proving our disability (especially if it’s hard to see) to whatever task we have set out to do. If we have a wheelchair, it is an expensive tool we likely paid for on our own. If we stand up from a wheelchair, that doesn’t mean we are faking it. I use a wheelchair when I go out for day trips although I can technically walk. The reason I have the wheelchair is that about 30 minutes on my feet and my right leg shakes so much that balance becomes pretty impossible without assistance. But it doesn’t change the fact that I can stand up if something is on a high shelf or walk a short distance. I know some can’t, but there are plenty of others like me who use these tools to be more independent. And just because our disability looks different from what you expect our disability to look like doesn’t mean we are faking it.

5) Accommodations can make or break our ability to do things

This ties back into my last point. With my wheelchair, I can go to writing conferences and do day trips with my family. With my earplugs I can go to soccer games and rowdy family gatherings without having a seizure. Having This ties back into my last point. With my wheelchair, I can go to writing conferences and do day trips with my family. With my earplugs, I can go to soccer games and rowdy family gatherings without having a seizure. Having little things that help us handle a situation can make or break if we can do it at all. Without my earplugs, I wouldn’t be able to handle the soccer game or the yelling kids that are my nieces and nephews. Without my wheelchair, I wouldn’t be able to go to conferences unless they were virtual or spend time with my family when they are going out to interesting places. The simple little things we add to our lives allow us to be present and enjoy these events. If you really want to do something with a disabled person, look into ways that you may accommodate them taking part. It won’t always work as some activities we just can’t do anymore, but often a solution can be found so everyone can enjoy.

Woman with a prosthetic arm covering her face and smiling
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