Learning Disabilities: Affect information processing ADD/ADHD: Affects concentration, focus, and at times, impulsivity Acquired Brain Injuries: Can affect cognitive functions, mobility, and emotional states Psychiatric Disabilities: Can affect emotional states, thought processes, and behaviour
Physical/Functional/Mobility Disabilities: Can affect body movement or function, leading to the use of wheelchairs, canes, or other devices Medical Disabilities: Affect systematic body function Developmental Disabilities: Affect learning, communication, and performance of daily tasks
Speech or Language Disabilities: Affect speech or understanding of language Deaf-blind: Affects vision and hearing to varying degrees Visual Disabilities: Affect vision Deaf */deafened/hard of hearing: Affect hearing to varying degrees
Examining different perspectives on disability can help us understand how people with disabilities are sometimes treated and how their disability is defined.
Disability is a problem within the person, resulting from a physical condition (i.e. trauma, disease, physical abnormality, or other health-related conditions) Disability is something that needs to be “fixed” or “cured” by medical professionals
How do you think the medical model impacts societal beliefs about people with disabilities? How do you think the medical model would impact how people with disabilities feel about themselves and their disability?
Disability is a tragic or very miserable circumstance deserving of charity.
How do you think the personal/tragedy model impacts societal beliefs about people with disabilities? How do you think the personal/tragedy model would impact how people with disabilities feel about themselves and their disability?
Disability is a problem created by society, not a deficit that lies within the individual. While some individuals may have variations in functioning, it’s barriers in society that create the disability, limiting the access of people with differences to fully participate.
How do you think the social model impacts societal beliefs about people with disabilities? How do you think the social model would impact how people with disabilities feel about themselves and their disability?
Disability is the loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due to physical and social barriers. (Barnes, C (1991). Disabled People in Britain and Discrimination: A Case For Anti- Discrimination. London: Hurst and Co)
A barrier is an obstacle that stands in the way of people with disabilities participating fully in their communities. Barriers can make day-to-day activities extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, for people with disabilities.
These are structural features that can restrict people with disabilities from entering, navigating, or functioning in certain buildings or spaces.
These occur when information is not accessible or cannot be easily understood.
These are policies, practices, and procedures that restrict persons with disabilities from participating or otherwise functioning in institutions or organizations.
These are attitudes or perspectives that discriminate against people with disabilities. What’s wrong with you? You can’t do that! Wow, you did that all by yourself? You poor thing! There’s a therapy I heard of that you need to try.
Your own attitude plays a large role in your interactions with people with disabilities. YOU can help break down barriers!
Respect: Focus on the person and not the disability. People with disabilities are not helpless. Do not assume that a person with a disability needs you to do everything for them and ensure that you respect the boundaries of the person – ask before acting. Collaboration: People with disabilities are often experts on their own disability and can be very inventive in overcoming problems. If you don’t know how to best communicate with someone, ask! Listening: Depending on the disability, it may be difficult for a person to communicate his/her thoughts and ideas clearly. It is important to be patient, to not interrupt or finish sentences for people with disabilities.
Invisible disabilities are not readily noticeable. Often people with invisible disabilities do not use visible assistive devices nor do they have any readily apparent cognitive, speech, sensory, or mobility issues.
Share with your group a time when you were asked to do something that was difficult for you, but you did it anyway without disclosing your difficulty. Explain why you didn’t feel you could disclose that the activity was difficult for you.
In a recent Canadian study in which people with invisible disabilities were interviewed, it was discovered that 40% of the respondents had not disclosed their disability to their employers, and 36% had not disclosed their disability to their post- secondary institutions. Cote. J (2009). Invisible Disability Disclosure. Athabasca, Alberta: Athabasca University.
Minges, Laura (2004). Disability Shame Speaks. The Ragged Edge. http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/life/shamespeaks1.html “Hello. My name is Disability Shame. I'm incredibly difficult to catch in the act, but I make people tired, confused and depressed. I feed on stereotypes and negative self-judgments.” “I slip right into the cracks, and I grow stronger with every doctor who sees disability as deficit, every therapist who clucks disapproval and never seems happy, and every disabled person who says things like, ‘You think the world owes you a living because you are disabled’.” “It's a sweet, sweet life. It has been this way for a very long time. And lucky for me, she hardly ever talks about it.”
Disabilities that are not readily apparent are often hard for people to understand and thus people with invisible disabilities are often discredited as being “fakers” or “lazy” or “complainers”.
Buchanan, Ricky (2009). An Open Letter to Those Without Invisible Disability or Chronic Illness. Not Done Living. http://notdoneliving.net/http://notdoneliving.net/ “Please understand that the effects of chronic illnesses and many disabilities are variable. It’s quite possible (for me, it’s common) that one day I am able to walk to the bathroom and back, while the next day I’ll have trouble sitting up. Please don’t attack me when I’m worse by saying, ‘But you did it before!’.”
What are some other reasons why people with disabilities may choose to pass?
Disclosure is often necessary to access services and supports in the community.
Kay, Mark. (2009) Hidden Disabilities: Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind. Jobpostings Magazine. http://www.neads.ca/en/about/projects/stem/success_in_stem.pdf “I spent over half a year sitting in the bathrooms of my university, instead of sitting in class...Suffering through an active flare of Crohn’s disease, I missed classes and overdue assignments piled up. I was in real danger of failing, but I didn’t ask for help. I couldn’t imagine myself saying to my professors ‘I have to poop a lot, please keep that in mind.’ I was deeply embarrassed, and that prevented me from reaching out.” “I did eventually find my way to my university’s disability centre. With time, I did start telling my professors ‘Yeah, I pretty much have to poop a lot, here’s the help I need from you.’ I was given extra time for assignments and exams and even dietary consideration at events. I went on to get my degree in journalism.”
Passing can be very stressful, as it can lead to fear of being “found out” and the taking on of tasks that are difficult. Disclosing can relieve stress and allow for acceptance by others and oneself.
Grey, Kriss. (2010). Mirrors. Helium.com. http://www.helium.com/items/542458- poetry-disability-pride “To reveal your disability, Is to reaffirm your strength, Not resign to weakness With that as part of your identity, You are welcomed into society The prize to be won No longer in denial But seated firmly in acceptance To raise my voice in the utterance of My disability Is to rescind my life in the shadows For sunshine”
Why did Candice spend most of her life “passing”? Why did she decide to stop passing? What are some of the barriers Candice has faced both before and during her pregnancy?
It is important that you are aware of societal misconceptions and your own ideas and attitudes so that you can work to help reduce the barriers. We all play a part in clearing the path for those who feel they need to hide parts of themselves for fear of discrimination.