There are currently 40 million Americans living with a disability. People with disabilities of working age are employed at a rate below the general population. One particular physical disability that hits close to home for me is Spina Bifida- a congenital defect in which part of the spinal cord and its meninges are exposed through a gap in the backbone. It often causes paralysis in the lower limbs and sometimes mental handicap.
Growing up with a sister with Spina Bifida gave me the opportunity to witness firsthand what living with a disability entails. I watched my sister struggle throughout her life. She had multiple life threatening surgeries and never had complete use of her legs. It was oftentimes unbearable to observe. I also saw people treat my sister as if she were a breakable doll. People believed she was not capable of making her own decisions, having her own thoughts, or ever being adept enough to live on her own. Well, to their surprise, she has done all of the aforementioned and more!
How to Act Around Someone With a Disability
It is common for those who are not disabled to feel awkward around those who are. Most probably will not admit this publically, but statistics have shown it to be true. Obviously, it is in our human nature to be curious. If you decide to ask a disabled person a question regarding their disability, they likely won’t mind answering.
What to do
Always talk directly to them instead of just the person who they are with.
Offer assistance just like you would anyone else- no more, no less.
Always ask before helping.
Avoid leaning on their wheelchairs (I know from personal experience this is a big one).
Kneel down to make eye contact when speaking or addressing someone in a wheel chair.
Listen carefully; never just “pretend” to understand.
Treat adults like adults (enough said).
Lastly, remember the golden rule: treat others how you would like to be treated.
For more information on disability related topics, disability awareness month, or any mental health issue, we are here for you! Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at 832.421.8714. We are here for you!