See me, not my disability

When the world looks at each other, we see what we have been brought up to see, within our own values and reasons. When things happen to us, unexpectedly, like becoming disabled, we are then put into a world that no one else can even imagine – unless they would suddenly find themselves dealing with the same issues.

Being disabled is a condition that no one asks for or wants to have happen to them. The world has a set picture of what “disabled” looks like and holds on to that image, instead of trying to really understand what it is to be disabled. There is no universal label or set mold that everyone can fit in, for there are many levels and forms of disability. Most of the world thinks of someone that doesn’t look “normal”, is bound to a wheelchair, or can’t care for themselves. If a disabled person does not fit this mold, then we are misunderstood and set aside.

There are many layers to being disabled and, unless you get to know the person, you won’t truly understand them.

To choose to break down these stereotypes, the key is to get to know the person. To do so, we would need to set aside any worldly pre-judgement, focus on their life skills, and empathize with how hard many aspects of their life is.

In many cases, a person can be disabled, but look “normal” to the outside world. There are physical limitations where the person cannot perform enough work related activities in which can survive, even though they look like they could. This is what social security calls their “measure of sustainable levels of income one needs to afford basic cost of living” like housing, food, hygiene, health and other simple factors. There are also mental limitations in which, if the disabled person is exposed to a typical work environment, the person’s ability to function is greatly reduced. There are also more visually obvious disabilities, like the loss of a limb. There are many layers to being disabled and, unless you get to know the person, you won’t truly understand them.

As a disabled veteran myself, I have many chronic medical conditions – both physical and mental. I may look “normal” to you, but there are many medical conditions that I face each day. I struggle with just my daily life tasks which to you may be a no-brainer. I have experienced the harsh world in which people say to me: “You look normal, I can do this, why can’t you?”, without really wanting to know the answer or getting to know me as a person. Sure, I look like I can do anything, I’m not bound by a wheelchair, and I don’t need full time care or have to live in nursing home. But, I am still disabled.

Society sees us as outcasts, as burdens to others – that we are a waste of their time. But yet, they pre-judge us according to their views and preconceived notions.

If you would take the time to communicate with me and just listen for understanding, your preconceived notions would change. What I do with my life, even with my medical conditions, determines the course of who I am and what I do. Not the thoughts and words of someone from the outside looking in. Seek to understand who I am, my struggles, and my joys.