What I would like others to understand about people with disabilities

A disability doesn’t always have to be considered a “handicap”, and I would like others to know that.

As a person living with a physical disability, I would like people to stop seeing others as different even though they look different. I wish others would stop comparing all the people who are different as disabilities. To those who are physically or mentally handicapped; I hope you know that having a disability makes you different from the world, but you are just as important as any other person. Here are some things I wish people were more aware of:

1. Abilities

Yes, although people with certain disabilities are limited in what they can and cannot physically do, that does not mean that we should underestimate their abilities and personality. We may look different, but inside we’re just like any normal teenage girl. We have obstacles and difficulties, but at the end of the day, we are people with feelings and thoughts. I wish people would stop seeing people with disabilities as just a disability, because they are so much more than a stereotype.

The girl in the photo above is Mikayla Homgren, she was the first girl with Down syndrome to enter the Miss Minnesota pageant. People with disabilities are much more than the stereotype we think of. They are dancers, pageant queens, entertainers, teachers, influencers and so much more. I can only hope that over time we will become more socially aware of people with disabilities. Give them more opportunities, don’t underestimate their abilities and what they can do. They may just surprise you.

2. Damage

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if someone else with a disability feels like this, but sometimes I hate pity. I would like people to know that. It’s nice to be treated like any other normal person. Don’t treat someone differently because of a disability. Do not act differently with a disabled person. I have the impression that most people with disabilities want to be treated normally, as if their disability does not exist. This is normal, because it is in our nature as teenagers to want to fit in with others.

We want to be part of a clique or a group of friends, we want to be loved, not pitied. People with disabilities have to live with them, so it’s good to know when you’re not feeling sorry for them. They want to feel loved and wanted. I want others to know that I want to have friends who actually care about me and don’t pretend to care because I’m different from them. Sure, I may not be able to do some of the things they do, but that doesn’t mean I’m worth less. People with disabilities want to be valued and want to feel worthy, don’t make them feel unworthy by feeling sorry for them.

3. Deal with pain

We all go through different things, whether at school or at home. However, it looks very different from the perspective of a person with a disability. I feel like most people look up to people with disabilities as strong and courageous people who have gone through so many obstacles and faced life’s difficulties. It’s great and all, but it puts so much pressure on them to feel like they should always be seen as strong and brave. We are like anyone else, especially since our struggles are greater and our abilities are less than those of a “normal” person.

I wish more people understood that it’s okay if someone, especially if they’re disabled, aren’t “well”. The struggle of everyday life puts a strain on a teenager’s self-esteem and well-being, imagine the struggle of someone who is not able to do everything an average teenager could do. Pain is one of the rawest feelings a person can experience, and it doesn’t get any easier for someone with a disability. Living with any type of disability is difficult, and I would like others to understand that.

4. Special treatment

I absolutely hate it, 100%. Even though it kind of goes with the topic of pity, in some ways they are different. I want to be part of this team, group of friends, club because they see potential in me. They see that I am worthy, that I am sufficient and that I will be a great asset to the group. I don’t want to be part of a group, team or club that thinks otherwise. I don’t have to prove where or who I belong to. If others can’t see the effort you put in and the value you have, then why go somewhere or be a part of something where you will be forgotten or ignored?

Don’t treat people with disabilities as special, treat them as equals. People with disabilities are neither superior nor inferior to any other human being, I hope others will see and understand that. People with disabilities are not a trophy to gain or achieve social status or a charity case to make others feel or look better. I really hope no one was that superficial. You don’t know what a disabled person really is until you get to know them and spend time with them. They might like the same things you do, or you might even have things in common. I know we’ve all heard this one before, but “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

5. Opportunities

I wish people with disabilities had more opportunities. Sure, there has been a progression in the disability movement, but how often do we hear about it?

Give us more opportunities to showcase our talents, our positive energy, our hard efforts. Give us a chance to be heard.

Just because we’re missing something that makes us different doesn’t mean we’re useless. Don’t degrade us to an inferior job just because you believe we “can’t” do it or think our abilities might limit us. When I say capabilities, I mean our ideas, thoughts, opinions, and judgments. We’re different, but different was never bad, so why treat us like that?

Take a chance with people with disabilities, you never know what they might do or say. I feel like people with disabilities see things from a totally different point of view that other people don’t. We think of other factors that you might not have considered. People with disabilities can bring new ideas and perspectives to the table, and who wants to take that away from them? Why would people want to deprive others who are different of the opportunities that can benefit the life of a person with a disability. It can even change them for the better and have a great impact on them. You will never know unless you give them the opportunity to show you.

stay aware

I want others to be aware of this, not only because it’s okay to treat others as equals regardless of their differences, but also because as a society we are changing.

Look at everything that has happened so far. We care about people, raise awareness in society, express the social issues that are close to our hearts. We became more involved in each other’s lives. Even though we may not understand all the things other people are facing and going through, we can at least say listen, I’m here for you, and I care about the things you’re going through.

At the end of the day, we are similar in many ways. Some of us want a better future, others fight for change. Being different is one of the many great things that come out of life. If we were all the same, there would be no need for change, therefore no need to evolve.

Change your point of view. How you see things, how you see others, matters. It has a huge impact in someone else’s life to look at things from a different point of view. Don’t judge others, regardless of disability, we all go through bad things in life. Why not share your problems with someone, you are not the only one feeling this. Embrace the pain; pain is what makes us stronger and fights us a little longer. I want others to be more open with each other. Share your worries, interests, pains, difficulties, achievements, share everything. Because at the end of the day, no matter how many people deny it, we all want the same thing; to be loved, valued, to belong.

There is one other thing I want to clarify: this article was intended for anyone with any type of disability, whether severe or not. Whether it is a person with a learning, speech, hearing, physical or mental disability; no matter what, i want you to know that you are heard, have a voice and are valued.