I’d like to talk about misconceptions — things assumed by culture as a whole. These ideas about people with physically disabilities are often false:
1. A physical disability automatically means a mental disability as well.
2. Wheelchair users are confined to their chairs and it’s a miracle when we actually walk.
3. We can’t speak or do anything for ourselves, so look to whoever is with us instead of talking to us.
4. We can’t be self-sufficient and independent, go to college or get real jobs.
5. We are not whole or good enough. We need fixing and healing. Pray for us in public.
6. A physical disability means more inability than ability.
7. We need a lot of physical therapy, surgeries, constant caregiving, adaptive equipment, etc. and are miserable.
8. A physical disability means we instantly relate to another person with a disability.
9. We can’t date, get married, or have fulfilling romantic relationships.
10. We are inspirations for reaching “normal” milestones and leading “normal” lives.
We need to bring these misconceptions into the light. Those living with physical disabilities are always people first — valuable human beings. We carry the same hopes, dreams, and ambitions in our hearts. We want to be a part of culture, actively involved in the community around us, not separate.
There is a growing gap between what culture says and what we know to be true, because assumptions pervade the air.
However, we can fight the misconceptions. We can bridge the gap, but we can’t do it alone. We need our family and friends to speak up with us.
Speak on our behalf when we are not present.
Start the hard conversations.
Remind others to stop assuming anything based on outward appearance.
Even if a person looks different, please try your best to not make them feel different. That person just wants to be seen, known, and loved as an equal.
For every misconception I face, I’m that much more thankful for everyone who loves the real me.
Will you bravely ignore all these misconceptions? Can you give us a chance?
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