Recognizing the Ignorance Surrounding Disabilities
Last updated: January 2021
Many say that they "suffer" from this or that illness. For example, saying, "I suffer from a chronic, often degenerative disease called multiple sclerosis." But not me. Instead, I say, "I live with a chronic, often degenerative disease called multiple sclerosis." And I live with the plethora of challenges that accompany said disease. What I suffer from is the pure ignorance (by both the literal definition as well as the colloquialism) that I am subjected to as a result of living with MS. Over the course and stages of my illness, societal ignorance has been the culprit of situations I've encountered, and I've suffered.
Many places barely have the bare minimum for accessibility
For instance, there is what I refer to as 'bare minimum' accessibility for the handicapped or disabled. The two terms are closely related and both concern people with special needs, both create some form of functional limitation. At any rate, one might wonder, in this day and age, how or why either could or would even be 'a thing' in 2021 - but it is. Once, I contacted a hotel to make a reservation and advised them that I required a handicapped accessible room. Upon entering the room, the only difference between it and the others was a safety grab bar in the bathtub.
There was also the time I made an appointment for me and my daughter and with a popular youth program only to find the only accessibility was the handicapped parking spot directly in front of the building. The offices, however, were all housed on the second floor - and there was no elevator.
This applies to doctor's offices, too!
And I would be remiss if I neglected to mention when making a doctor's appointment at a new practice and inquiring if their building had a wheelchair ramp. The receptionist replied, "No, but it's only a step or two to get in the building and once you're in, you'll be fine because everything's one level."
Ignoring our needs
Whether it's for financial reasons or simple ignorance, it's so very unfortunate - and frustrating - when establishments ignore the needs of their community's handicapped population and push providing accommodations to the limit by doing the bare minimum.
It's pretty much already baked into the pie that if you break or fracture a limb, have spinal damage due to injury or illness and it severely affects your mobility requiring the use of a walker or wheelchair, or perhaps are visually or mentally impaired, for instance, you'll more than likely require an assistive device or accommodations respective to such special needs. Understanding this, and because it simply had to be done as a protection for those living with such afflictions, in 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created. The ADA is a civil rights law that impedes discrimination based on disability.
The ADA can't address everything
Unfortunately, the ADA can't address everything. There remains the social stigma, low self-esteem, and support system issues that may be suffered by the individuals - especially when met with ignorance - who live with impairments impacted under said law. With MS, (as well as other chronic illnesses), effects of the disease may be invisible. Yet, ignorance produces the inevitable side-eye when utilizing a handicapped parking placard. Or causes family and friends to feel that activities are shied away from due to laziness (it's called fatigue!). And triggers the statement "...but you look so good!" (As opposed to...?)
No law can address ignorance (by both literal definition as well as colloquialism) - but awareness can. That's why it is so very important to speak out. Bring awareness to our plight so that those who don't know, can know and those who don't care to know, can care to know. Only then might the ignorance which surrounds disability end.
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