Do you think you are awkward around persons with disabilities? Do you constantly question yourself as to how to behave around them? Do you not acknowledge disability because you are afraid of it?
We are afraid of disability because we don’t really know what it is unless it is a part of our lives. And to engage with disabilities, one has to start somewhere.
Persons with disabilities help us realize what really matters in life. They teach us to participate in life and not simply watch it go by. To recognize that the value of life is found in who we are and not in whom we are NOT. Sooner or later it has to be accepted that disability is a part of life. May be not mine, not yours, but someone’s. And to embrace it, is the only way out of the false notion of disability being fearful.
We are scared of disability, mainly because of ignorance, we don’t know much about it or what it would mean to our family. But disability is a part of life. You learn, you grow, and you live. And so much of life goes on as before. Yet, the stigmas and stereotypes pass down to us every time we think of disability blocking our own perceptions and cognitions.
But, disability is not the horrible green eyed monster that we think of as. It’s not contagious. Don’t let others grow up carrying the same stigmas and stereotypes that were passed on to us. Make a difference by acknowledging that kids and adults with disabilities are people first, with gifts, talents, and abilities. Children are born curious, they want to know the world around them and various phenomenon. They make sense of their world as they grow and learn. From the early stage, responding to their questions regarding disabilities in a way that helps them understand and embrace disability, not run away from it. Respond in a way that helps them understand and embrace disability, not run away from it.
If the child says, “What’s wrong with her/him mama?” Say, “Nothing is wrong with them, they have a disability, and do you know what disability means?”
Perhaps, disability can be explained by talking about apples. Apples can be green, red, or speckled; they look different but they are still the same. You can eat an apple or an apple pie. You can drink apple juice, or apple cider, or even an apple soda.
Similarly, we are like apples. We might look different on the outside, but we have the same essence, we are all made in the image of God. We all have different talents, abilities, sense of humor, a preference for certain type of music etc. which makes everyone a unique personality.
Similarly, people with disabilities are made up of so much more than their diagnosis. The best way to be comfortable with disability is to be around it. If you do not have a friend who has a child with special needs, then make a point to befriend someone. Simply, let’s put away the fear that surrounds disability. Fear makes us turn away, rather than allowing us to embrace. Let’s embrace the person, let’s embrace individual differences. Because there is nothing to be afraid or to be ashamed of!