Disability is Natural!

January 29, 2011

Today I attended an event about children with disabilities put on by FOCUS, Families Of Children Under Stress, and it was great. The first speaker, Joe Sarra of ChildKind, Inc., began his speech by making this point: disability is natural! Having a disability is not something to be feared or ashamed of, as it is a totally natural part of life. What a refreshing view on disability! To further illustrate his points, Sarra included these facts:

  • 54 million Americans have a disability. That's one out of every five! (2002 Census)
  • The number of people born with disabilities is higher and more children are surviving past birth due to medical advancements.
  • People with disabilities are living longer due to medical advancements.
  • While some disabilities are identified at birth, others occur throughout the lifespan due to traumatic events or the aging process.
  • People with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the United States.

Getting diagnosed with a disability is often a traumatic event, but Sarra pointed out that almost everybody is going to be disabled at some point in their life-it's as natural as aging. The word disability means that a person has less or no ability in one area of their life. People tend to think of this in grand terms, such as blindness, cerebral palsy, or schizophrenia, but the reality is everyone who has loss of sight and has to wear glasses or contacts has a disability! That disability may not be as severe as say, someone who has clinical depression, but it is a type of disability nevertheless. Furthermore, as we age, people naturally lose some of their abilities-people become physically weaker, may develop osteoporosis, may lose sight and/or hearing, just to name a few symptoms of the aging process. Becoming disabled in some way is a natural part of life for the majority of the population if you count the aging process, so let's stop othering disabled people! It has been theorized that people are afraid of disabilities, not so much because they are afraid of the person they are ostracizing, but because they are afraid of becoming like that person one day. It's the same with people who are afraid of LGBTQI folk. We are afraid of what we might become.

I propose that we embrace life and others in a whole new way. Let's embrace our possibilities-the good and the different. I say "different," because having a disability is not really a bad thing-it's just a different reality-a different perspective. I am a person who lives with several disabilities and that's not a bad thing-in fact, it's really quite natural.

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