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Demystifying Disability

Disability will impact all of us at some point in our lives. You might know someone with a disability, have a child or family member that you care for, or you may gain a disability later in life. Essentially, disability is a part of all our experiences.

“Throughout history, disabled people have been stigmatized. Disability has been linked to disease and helplessness, and in some cultures, disability is associated with ancestral curses. These stigmas commonly turn up in ableist language, also referred to as disablist language. Jamie Hale, CEO of Pathfinders Neuromuscular Alliance explains, “There’s a sense when people use disablist language, that they are seeing ways of being as lesser. It is often not a conscious attempt to harm disabled people, but it acts to construct a world-view in which existing as a disabled person is [negative]." Read the full article "Destigmatizing Disability" written by Sara Mayer.

Additional Resources

Removing Barriers

Everyone can contribute to change. You can help remove barriers by:

  • Understanding the need for accessible parking and leaving it for those who need it

  • Encouraging participation of people with disabilities in community activities by using accessible meeting and event sites

  • Advocating for a barrier-free environment

  • Speaking up when negative words or phrases are used about disability

  • Accepting people with disabilities as individuals capable of the same needs and feelings as yourself, and hiring qualified disabled persons whenever possible

Ways to be Inclusive

  • It's okay to offer your help to someone, but respect their boundaries if they say no.

  • It's okay to ask people about their disabilities after you’ve gotten to know someone, and it's also okay for them not to talk about it.

  • Don't assume someone doesn't have a disability just because they aren't using mobility aids. Not all disabilities are visible.

  • When you're talking with wheelchair users for more than a few minutes, sit down so you are eye level with that person.

  • It's okay to use words like "see", "hear", "walk" and "run" when you're talking to people with disabilities.

  • It's okay to ask people who have speech-related disabilities to repeat what they said if you didn't understand the first time.

  • If an interpreter is helping you speak with a deaf person, make sure you talk to the deaf person and not the interpreter.

  • Never pet or play with service dogs. They can't be distracted from the job they are doing.

  • Make sure to consider accessibility when planning social events with disabled friends. Ask restaurants, party halls, or other venues if they are accessible beforehand.

  • Don't park in accessible parking spots unless you need to, and never block curb cuts, sidewalks, or driveways.