Common Assumptions about Disability – Separating Myth from Reality

Stereotypes are commonplace and are generally due to misinformation and prejudice. For people with disabilities, a lack of awareness about disability issues among able-bodied people contributes to their frequent exclusion from society. It is therefore important for everyone to gain a better understanding of what disability entails and to know which of the assumptions we hold are correct and which aren’t.

People with disabilities have very different lives than other people: MYTH

People with disabilities are actually not that different from other people. They may have some physical limitations that people without disabilities don’t have, but they still have families, go to work every day, go shopping, travel and so on. Their day-to-day lives often don’t differ much from that of other people.


Having a disability is not the same as being handicapped: FACT

Let’s define both words. Disability is defined as “a condition (such as an illness or an injury) that damages or limits a person’s physical or mental abilities.” A handicap, on the other hand, is “a disadvantage that makes achievement unusually difficult.” Disability and handicap are thus not the same thing. People with a disability indeed have some sort of physical limitation, but they only become handicapped when barriers exist that limit their participation in society, and consequently also limit what they can accomplish.


People with disabilities are inspirational: MYTH

Having a disability doesn’t automatically make a person into a hero. Just like anyone else, they are just living their lives, which for them means adjusting to their disability. They could just sit on the couch all day and do nothing, but you don’t do that either, do you? By telling a person with a disability how brave or courageous he or she is, you are implying that their disability is a burden. However, many people don’t consider their disability a burden, at all.


We do not need to feel sorry for people with disabilities: FACT

No, we indeed don’t. Having a disability is not a tragedy. In fact, it is a normal part of life for many people (about 15% of the world’s population) and doesn’t mean their lives are over. People with disabilities can live amazing lives and many wouldn’t want get rid of their disability, even if they could.


The majority of people with disabilities uses a wheelchair: MYTH

Many people automatically associate disability with wheelchair use. In reality, however, only a very small part – around 10% – of people with disabilities actually use a wheelchair. Most people with disabilities use other assistive devices too get around or have a disability that doesn’t affect mobility at all. Of the 10% of people who do require wheelchairs, however, only a minority have access to (an appropriate) one, unfortunately.


Wheelchair use is confining: MYTH

Imagine being unable to walk (or having trouble walking) and not having a wheelchair. Now, that would be confining. Like bicycles or cars, a wheelchair enables people to go places and consequently, to fully participate in society. Thus, rather than restricting a person’s movements, a wheelchair can actually contribute to that person’s independence.


Most people with disabilities can live independently: FACT

Like other people, most people with disabilities are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. Due to their disability, they may have difficulties doing some things and may require help occasionally, but they are most definitely not helpless. They have more abilities than disabilities and can both receive and give help.


Most people with disabilities can never live a productive life, let alone be successful: MYTH

Many people unfortunately still believe that people with disabilities can never be productive members of society. This belief is commonplace here in Vietnam, for instance. It is absolutely not true, however. Take our programmers here at Enablecode. They are fully-functional employees who are very good at their jobs and are able to provide for themselves and their families.

Moreover, some of the most influential people in history had disabilities. To name but a few, Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States from 1933 until 1945, was unable to walk as a result of polio, and Stephen Hawking, a famous theoretical physicist whose life is portrayed in the award-winning movie “The Theory of Everything”, is fully paralyzed and unable to speak due to ALS.


Not every building needs to be accessible to people with disabilities: MYTH

While not every building is visited regularly by people with disabilities, it is still important that all buildings are accessible to them. People with disabilities make up a large part of the population and while their disabilities do not necessarily limit what they are capable of, having inaccessible infrastructure does.


People who have trouble speaking are generally also less intelligent: MYTH

Having a speaking impairment is often assumed to be a sign of low intelligence. Most often, however, a speaking impairment is actually the result of a disease or a physical disability. Speaking problems typically are not an indication of a person’s intelligence.


Employees with disabilities have a lower absentee rate than employees without disabilities: FACT

Employees with disabilities are actually absent less often than other employees and also have lower turnover rates, according to a study by DePaul University. Hiring people with disabilities therefore does not have to be a burden. Rather, it can actually be very beneficial to businesses.


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