Many of the misconceptions about disability come from non-disabled people projecting their beliefs about disability onto us. They develop these beliefs based on what they see when they look at us, and how that makes them feel.
It’s common in society to pity disabled people, to think we can’t accomplish anything. We are seen as weak people with tragic lives. This leads to being inspired by us when we do everyday things, and non-disabled people being seen as heroes for helping us.
I am not an inspiration simply for going out in public disabled. People do not need to feel sorry for me simply because I use a wheelchair. I am just going about my usual life. It’s nothing for strangers to have an opinion on.
There’s a quote that has been circulating online for several years. “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” It is often paired with a photo of a disabled person doing regular things. This quote originated from a former Olympic figure skater. It was refuted by disabled activist Stella Young, who stated, ”no amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.”
Disability is a very real thing that cannot be cured with a positive attitude. Disabled people face discrimination and barriers to access every day. While maintaining a positive attitude can be helpful for anyone, it does not take away our disabilities or our need for access. It is not realistic to expect us to overcome our disabilities.
Nobody knows more about disability than the disabled people who live it every day. I am used to being disabled, so it’s not something that regularly frustrates me. Lack of access frustrates me. People making assumptions about my life frustrates me.
I have a great life. Being a part of the disability community has given me wonderful opportunities and introduced me to amazing people. The best things I have experienced in my life are things that I would not have known about if not for my disabilities, like therapeutic horseback riding and subsequently volunteering at Agape.
Written by Maria Seno, Agape Volunteer