Myths are roadblocks usually caused by misunderstandings and a lack of experience interacting with people with disabilities. Too often, these misunderstandings interfere with the ability of people with disabilities to find acceptance among their peers because they evoke fears and discomfort.
Reality: Adjusting to a disability requires adapting to a lifestyle, not bravery and courage. Going to college, having a family, participating in sporting events and working in a job are normal not heroic activities for people with disabilities just as they are for people without disabilities.
Reality: Of course, individuals with disabilities are sometimes sick, just as people without disabilities are sometimes sick. A disability, though, is a condition, not an illness. Assuming they are the same thing can foster negative stereotypes, including fear of ‘catching’ the disability, or that people with disabilities need to be ‘cured’.
Reality: One out of every five Americans has a disability, and not all disabilities are visible or immediately apparent. Conditions such as chronic back pain and arthritis, as well as learning disabilities and psychological disabilities, can create significant limitations or difficulties for those experiencing them.
Reality: People with physical disabilities have a full range of IQs and academic abilities. The degree of the physical disability has no bearing on a person’s mental capacity.
Reality: A wheelchair, like a bicycle or a car, is a personal assistive device that enables someone to get around. Rather than ‘confining’, most people who use wheelchairs consider them liberating!
Reality: Some people using wheelchairs cannot walk, others can. Many people use wheelchairs because they tire easily or because their strength is limited and using a wheelchair makes it possible for them to travel longer distances, or to be ‘out and about’ for longer periods of time.
Reality: Although many people who are blind may refine their remaining senses and use them more fully, they do not develop a ‘sixth sense’.
Reality: Only about 10% read Braille. Many use other methods of gaining access to printed materials, including computers with screen readers and books on tape.
Reality: People with disabilities are most comfortable with people they like and enjoy spending time with. This misconception probably came about because, in the past, many people with disabilities often went to separate schools or lived in institutions.
Reality: Many people with disabilities are independent and capable of giving help. And while anyone may offer assistance, most people with disabilities prefer to be responsible for themselves.
Reality: People with disabilities want to participate in the full range of human experiences the good and the bad.
Reality: Many children have a natural, uninhibited curiosity and may as questions that some adults consider embarrassing. But ‘shushing’ curious children may make them think having a disability is ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’. Most people with disabilities won’t mind answering a child’s questions.
Reality: People with disabilities go to school, get married, work, have families, laugh, cry, pay taxes, get angry, have prejudices, vote, plan, dream and set goals like everyone else. People with disabilities are human beings who can be just as annoying, nice, rude or amusing as anyone else you might know.
Reality: Lip-reading skills vary among people who use them and may not be entirely reliable. People who are deaf or hard of hearing use a number of methods to communicate, including sign language and interpreters.
Reality: People with disabilities take part in a wide variety of sports. In recent years, technological advances in adaptive sports equipment have opened doors to even more recreational opportunities.
Reality: A world without architectural barriers will be a wonderful help to people with disabilities. But until attitudinal barriers also fall, people with disabilities may continue to have trouble being recognized as valuable members of society.
Reality: Everyone can contribute to change. You can help remove barriers by:
Reality: Not true. However, lack of experience in meeting people with disabilities sometimes makes those without uncomfortable. They’re often afraid of saying the wrong thing, and nervous about doing something offensive. People with disabilities and those without must get past this initial hesitation and discover ways to make interaction more comfortable for everyone involved.
Reality: The desire to help and the knowledge of how to do so do not necessarily go hand in hand. If a person with a disability accepts an offer for assistance, it’s helpful for him or her to give specific instructions on exactly what type of assistance is needed and the best way to carry it out.