Disability Is a Spectrum

When we think of the word “disabled”, there are a lot of specific imagines that come to mind. A lifetime of absorbing media without actually knowing anyone who is disabled can bring forth an image of someone who is wheelchair-bound and requiring the help of others for the most minute of tasks. The reality is far different than that stereotypical image that is portrayed everywhere. The fact is, disability is a spectrum, with an enormously wide range of appearances and capabilities.

Ignorance and misconceptions around disability

There are so many misconceptions out there about what it means to be disabled. These incorrect views often come in to play with regards to what one sees. If there is no wheelchair, how can they be disabled? They look fine to me, they must be scamming the system for money and a parking space! Such is the ignorance that many who are disabled have to deal with. I’ve even read that the United States’ current executive branch wants to monitor the social media of those who are disabled, you know, in order to see if they are having too much fun. Once again, the current administration is showing that it’s far from knowledgeable when it comes to the topic of science and medicine (not to mention humanity). What hope do the disabled have when it comes to the everyday citizens of the world when people at such a high level can display such ignorance when it comes to the topic?

Disability is more than a wheelchair

So, I am here to remind everyone that being disabled doesn’t mean you have to be in a wheelchair. If you are in a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean you need it 100% of the time either. Many people who use wheelchairs can stand and walk for short periods of time. Just like I require a cane, but don’t need it if I am going short distances. Aside from that, people need to get away from the fact that being disabled is about more than walking and mobility. It’s about cognitive impairment, fatigue, pain, vision, and speech. It’s about any function the human body can normally do, but because of injury or illness, no longer functions. I am disabled, but I do not look it, and like many, I try hard to not look or act disabled.

I am 41, a man, I have a big and long beard, I drink beer, and I even laugh and smile. I’m not at all what people think of when they think of someone being disabled. Yet, I am in pain constantly, fatigued to the point I can barely move, my arms and legs have trouble working at times, and my short term memory is a disaster. All things that you would never see by looking at me. I’m such a mess inside that when I was forced onto disability, I was immediately accepted. Something that is so hard to do, that there are those that are in wheelchairs 100% of the time that don’t get accepted on the first try. Yet, if you were to judge my social media alone, you wouldn’t understand that. Chances are, you wouldn’t get it even if you spent some time with me.

Functioning consistently is the big problem

Many people in this spectrum of disability can still function at times, but they can’t do it consistently. That’s another area I think people don’t understand when it comes to the disabled. We live in a world where to maintain a job, you need to be able to function regularly and consistently - those areas are key to understanding disability. Someone may be able to do something once in a while, but to keep that up on a regular and consistent basis is impossible. People’s bodies can actually work well some of the time and they can still be disabled. But to never know when or if you’ll be able to do something is a special kind of hell. With your former abilities giving you a glimpse of the person you once were, only to then be snatched from you when you least expect it. People who are disabled can have good days, good moments, but they don’t control that. For many people who are disabled, life is an exercise in unpredictability in a world that demands predictable results.

Educating others: disability is more than meets the eye

So, as I try to do every so often, please spread the word and remind others that the subject of disability is a very complicated one. Remind them that there is much more that goes into making someone disabled than a wheelchair. Educate them that what they see with their eyes is often very far from the truth.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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