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I'm Not 'Brave' for Working With People With Disabilities

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There are a few things in this world that upset me. For the most part, I am a pretty laid back person. Until you say I am brave. I am an advocate for those with a disability, run a company that showcases people with disabilities, and am a life coach for adults with disabilities. Almost every area of my life focuses on what those with disabilities are doing in the world. I get more out of it than I ever thought possible. The people I work with are some of the brightest and most joyful people in the world. Because this population often goes unrecognized, others tell me I am brave, or that I have a gift to work with “those” people.

Some individuals have never been around those with a disability and might not know what to expect. That is completely OK, and it’s often human nature to be unsure of the unknown. However, to tell someone that they must be courageous to work with people is such a bizarre compliment. You are telling me that I possess a quality that is admirable because I choose to sit down, listen, and help those who do life a little differently than me.

People with disabilities are not strange and unknown. They are humans who need love and compassion like the rest of us. My job is to help them be able to express themselves and live their lives, just like the rest of us. Telling me I am special because I love and care about a population of individuals is such a disgrace to them. Thinking more highly of me belittles them. They are not charity cases. They do not benefit from you thinking less of them.

Society has made those with a disability an oppressed group. They are discriminated against, bullied, and put into a box to “be afraid of.” It is hard enough for them in this world, and to tell an advocate that they are fearless to do what they do makes the disability community seem scary and complicated. It is not scary. It is not complicated. It is full of love and acceptance.

It does not take a special kind of person to work with or be friends with those who have a disability. You just need to be a human who loves and cares about others. I do not possess any magical qualities. I do not have a heart of gold. I am not patient. In fact, I am almost always the opposite of that. However, working in the community has taught me that life is fragile. It is often hard. It often hurts, but changing your outlook can make all the difference.

I do not experience the blatant hate some of my disabled friends do. I do not have complete strangers call me names or speak to me as though I can not understand the English language.

I am not brave. They are. Not for having disabilities, but because they face a world that often tells them they are not good enough, a world that constantly pities them, a world that often considers them “less than.” There are people in the world who are telling them they do not deserve basic human rights. I see them respond with more grace and love than most people have.

My job does not require me to brave around my friends. It requires me to bravely to stand up to society and say, everyone, no matter their abilities, deserves love and respect. It requires me to be bold and face the ugly in this world. It requires me to be fearless when people make fun of those I love.

When we stop making advocates out to be heroes, we can focus on creating a world that allows everyone to live their life to the fullest.

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Thinkstock photo by EVA Fotografie.

Originally published: April 24, 2017
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