Often, there is the misconception that to be disabled means one must be in a wheelchair. This may be attributed due to the universal symbol of accessibility that we so often see today, is of a man in a wheelchair, hence, the assumption. But what does it really mean to be disabled?
And often, being disabled isn’t confined to physical disabilities. Physical barriers that limit one’s movements such as lack of accessible ramps or Braille in elevators are only some of the many challenges people with disabilities face.
By definition, to be disabled means being unable to perform tasks that are normally done such as seeing or walking. This can be due to an illness or an injury. Hence, people with disabilities constitute the largest minority group today; the only kind wherein people can be a part of any time. For others, it is nothing more than a temporary setback; a sprained ankle or a broken wrist; give it a few weeks and you’re good to go Although for most, it means a lifetime of accepting that there will always be a limitation to what one can do.
Sometimes, the hardest problems people face are the ones we cannot easily see for ourselves. Presently, there has been an increased awareness for mental illness which is one of many invisible disabilities people face today. From chronic fatigue syndrome to Chron’s disease to Lupus. Although, the stigma many of these patients face is that just because they don’t look sick means they cant possibly be sick.
So that raises the question, does the inability to see something, reject its existence?
Empathy goes a long way with people with illnesses that are not so obvious at the start. Many of these people living with invisible illnesses are often judged by others. We must remember that they, like us, are human too.
Every person deserves to be treated with respect, disabled or not.
We all have our differences and from it, we can choose to either put up barriers that further segregates us or, we can use it as an opportunity to build one cohesive society. We should strive for an inclusive community wherein each individual is regarded as important as the next.
There is value in each and every one of us. Let us not define ourselves and others for what we are unable to do and instead envision a future wherein everyone is able to participate in society.
Written by Camille Lu, a current intern at the WYA Asia Pacific office. WYAAP is already accepting applications for its 3rd batch of interns this 2017. Interested members may check www.wya.net/apinternships for more information.