Redefining Disability: Experts Tackle Tired Cliches

It’s no secret that the general public is ill-informed when it comes to understanding disability. Outside of those who’ve been close to someone with a disability or have had a disability themselves, people don’t necessarily think about what it means to have a physical or mental handicap. That’s partly because the issue has been stigmatized, mischaracterized, and at times, outright ignored.

Even the words we use in discussing it are inadequate: disability and handicap, for instance, both imply that physical and mental differences must inevitably be impediments to living a happy, well-rounded life. In fact, that’s not true at all and is one of the biggest misconceptions floating around about those who are better referred to as “differently abled.”

In effort to bust some more myths about so-called “disability,” we turned to a community of writers that discuss these issues on a daily basis and asked them the following question:

What’s the most persistent myth surrounding disability?

Here is what they had to say…

Tiffiny Carlson

tiffinycarlsonThe AB [able-bodied] public strongly assumes our lives are bleak, depressing and full of sadness because of our said disabilities. I always find it amusing when a new friends says to me, ‘Wow you live well.’ That’s because I do.

Tiffiny is a longtime disability writer from Minneapolis. You can read her work at BeautyAbility.com and @TiffCarlson. She has a C6 spinal cord injury from a diving accident from when she was 14. Tiffiny holds a degree in Mass Communications from Augsburg College.

Emily Ladau

emily-ladauA vast majority of people perceive disability as the source of an unfortunate, unproductive life, when this is completely untrue. In fact, it is this sort of stigmatization that most contributes to the current barriers still faced by the disability community. While disability certainly comes with plenty of challenges, it is really just a particular state of being – one that can even be incredibly empowering, rather than limiting.

Emily is a freelance writer, social media professional, and outreach specialist. She lives life on wheels and spends her time creating connections for positive change. Read more from Emily at WordsIWheelBy.com and @emily_ladau.

Cory Lee

Cory LeeOne of the biggest myths that I frequently come across is that people think traveling isn’t possible for wheelchair users. As a powered wheelchair user, I’ve been to 14 countries and found that almost anything is possible with a little determination. It’s not always easy, but it is definitely possible and well worth the extra effort.

Barely in his mid-20s, Cory Lee is a travel addict who turned his passion into a successful travel blog – CurbFreeWithCoryLee.com – where he shares his accessible adventures with readers. Tweet at Cory here: @coryleetweets.

Mark E. Smith

mark_smithWe still unfortunately live in a society where outer appearance may evoke stereotypes and ignorance despite the depth of one’s character. Nowhere is this more prevalent than within physical disability, where aspects from genius to common humanity may be overlooked based on exterior facades. The myth that those with disabilities are somehow different than others is the most persistent myth of all. Let us look beyond the physicality and see the true character we each possess, regardless of disability — and then our common humanity will be rightfully embraced among all.

Mark E Smith is an author, a speaker, and a long-time mobility industry manager. Mobility and disability are his passions. Do yourself a favor and check out his websites WheelchairJunkie.com & PowerChairDiaries.com – also, he’s Twitter @wheelchairjunki.