If equality and diversity in public is going to occur, then a lot of people still have lessons to learn. Online, a lot of vocal frustration appears from angry disabled people and their carers who are inappropriately approached in places outside.
I understand why they’re emotional. When somebody does something wrong, we usually want them to do what’s right. But is it really possible to widely spread word of these issues online or in any newspapers and magazines?
Stereotyping isolated individuals or groups has been talked about in the media in some ways more than others. No people who search for equality wish to be stereotyped, but the issues that arise for disabled people when it happens are clearly causing problems that haven’t been talked about much by the press or very much frowned upon by the general public.
So, why do non-disabled people make these stereotyping mistakes? What is it that they incorrectly believe about disabled people?
Disabled people deserve pity
Disabled people are quite often prone to pity from others. This is because other people believe that our lives are filled with sorrow and agony. They believe that disabled people also continually need the help of others as well.
However, being disabled doesn’t lead to a poor quality of life. We often deal with our disabilities personally in adulthood. Right now, the main negatives we need to manage when older are all highlighted in the social model of disability.
Disabled people cannot lead productive and fulfilling lives
It’s often assumed that disabled people will not be able to have a family, get a good job, or take on responsibilities as an adult. Once again, this focuses on the belief that an impairment overcomes the abilities needed to live a fulfilling life.
But this isn’t true. If anything, dealing with health-related difficulties only helps us offer more of the many skills we’re still looking to share.
Disabled people are sick and in constant pain
Crowds can also foolishly believe that pain and sickness constantly bother people who are disabled.
Again, this isn’t true. It does cause pain and sickness at times, but disabilities are so varied. To be honest, epilepsy doesn’t make me sick or lead to many feelings of physical pain either.
Non-disabled people can also incorrectly believe that disabilities need to be corrected or cured. Although research takes place, there is no real cure for epilepsy and many other disabilities as well.
Disabled people are wheelchair bound
If they’ve not read or heard a word about problems for disabled people, non-disabled people sometimes believe that wheelchairs are a must-have for all.
And, yes – they’re wrong. Even people who use a wheelchair don’t often believe they’re stuck to it. It’s no different to using a car; it simply offers disabled people mobility and contributes to their independence as well.
Disabled people are brave, heroic and courageous
After overcoming adversity, disabled people can easily be portrayed as courageous and almost ‘superhuman’. This stereotype only puts pressure on disabled people to be cheerful, accepting and make the most out of their condition. However, if any disabled person is drawn into this spotlight by doing something a little unique it can be frustrating.
Sometimes disabled people are expected to be something extraordinary, but this doesn’t give them the option of having complex emotions when needed.
Disabled people are helpless and dependant
This stereotype has perhaps been previously used more with certain disabilities to raise money for charity. However, disabled people are certainly not all helpless and dependent upon others.
Disabled people are to be feared
In the past, disabled people have often been associated with witchcraft and feared by others. For quite some time, those watching thought people with epilepsy were being punished by God when they had seizures.
Disabled people have previously been thought of as a menace to society, and occasionally still are today. However, if you treat us with respect, I’d say disabled people are often willing to return the favour.
A standard reaction
Personally, I’ve never had to handle stereotyping put upon me because epilepsy is an invisible disability. But, after hearing from other disabled people and carers as well, I only know that anger and frustration is formed when stereotyping starts to take place.
On the spot, I doubt most disabled people approached by others immediately express their emotions out loud. Instead, I imagine they’ll speak as little as possible and wander away from others, unless they’re confident enough to talk and are very much offended by what’s been said.
If they express their anger verbally, it’s quite often done at a later date when talking with family, friends or speaking via social media.
Are there any alternatives?
When a visible disability is included in life, there’s no doubt that feelings of anxiety are bound to arise whenever unfamiliar people start to approach you in public. However, if that’s the case, then maybe we should start reacting a little more ‘maturely’ to people when they do so.
And why is that? Well, I’m not saying we’re being childish, but dealing with these sorts of difficulties isn’t easy or healthy for any person in society. So, if stereotyping takes place, maybe we should just take a deep breath and think about a better future.
We could practice something new. Do your best to look them in the eye when responding to whatever question they’ve asked or comment they’ve made. Try and stay relaxed, take a card from your pocket, and simply speak: ‘You should take a look at this…’
So, what do we show them?
You could just hand them a card, so similar to a business card, with a website address on it for them to explore. Then, simply say, ‘it’s important.’ After that, you can just walk away peacefully. However, I imagine they’ll be surprised with your reaction, and curious enough to see what’s on the website address you’ve given them.
A website explaining issues
Today, so many people read what’s online rather than hold things in hand to get information. If you give them the name of a website that explains the issues of stereotyping disabled people, I think it’s more likely to be accepted and inspected than something material to carry.
Leaflet’s aren’t looked at with a lot of appeal today. What’s read will only indicate that what they’ve said is wrong as well. Plus, small cards are easier to keep in your pocket, and waste much less paper in the environment.
If disabled people get involved and time continues, word will eventually spread of these actions. Disabled people will be doing something that’s unique, and it could well be picked up by the media and mentioned in newspapers too.
I know this seems like such a simple and unusual way to solve the problem. Business cards are usually used to cover as much ground as possible for rich people. But there’s nothing that stops us from using them, so why don’t we give it a go?
And remember, I ask that question with a will to accept answers. I don’t consider myself to be the world’s smartest disabled person; my memory’s been badly damaged and this has led to me living with a terrible general knowledge. So please, tell me about any problems you see with my proposed actions, and we’ll look to improve them in the future as well.
I think it’s time to start making some important changes for disabled people; stereotyping needs to stop.