Women in Wheelchair in a street environment
08 Feb

11 Disability Myths You Need To Stop Believing


Forming ideas about how other people live is a common problem, and individuals who live with a disability often face a number of myths about disabilities. These misconceptions come from a variety of places, whether through stereotypes or misinformation. Many disability myths are rooted in a misunderstanding about what it’s like to live with a disability.

To help diminish the ongoing stigma, stereotypes, and myths that people with disabilities face, it’s crucial that society does work to debunk common disability myths.

Myth: Living with a Disability is Brave

Society loves the story of an individual who overcomes hardship, again and again. However, someone who lives with a disability is only learning how to adapt to a different lifestyle. They didn’t set out to be inspirational. Most of the time, they just want to live their lives. People with disabilities are often portrayed as superhuman or placed on a pedestal of sainthood.

Myth: Wheelchair Users are Confined to their Wheelchair

Associated with hospitals, illness, and immobility, wheelchairs come with their own list of stereotypes. However, just because a person is using a wheelchair does not mean that a person is paralyzed or chronically ill. Wheelchairs are another mode of transportation for some that help people with limited strength or mobility to get around more easily.

Myth: Deaf People Are Unable to Speak

Someone with low hearing or complete deafness still has the ability to use his or her vocal cords. While hearing impairments may affect a person’s ability to hear the sounds that they are forming, they are still capable of speaking. Often, a person’s clarity of speech depends on when that person began to experience hearing loss.

Myth: Deaf People Can Read Lips

A common assumption that is made about people with hearing loss is that they can read lips. Since the sounds that we use for forming words are not always visible on lips, lip-reading is not completely reliable. In fact, people with hearing impairments often use a combination of facial expressions and body cues to ascertain the message that friends are sharing with them.

Myth: Blind People Have a “Sixth Sense”

People who experience blindness are like anyone else, and they do not have a sixth sense. However, due to their lack of visual cues, they are likely to pay attention to other senses. For example, a person with vision loss may pick out more nuances in the sounds around them, know that a door has opened due to airflow, or sense someone near them because the sun’s heat is no longer directly shining on them.

Myth: People with Disabilities Prefer People with Disabilities

While it was common in the past to group people by their disability, removing them from society whether to provide an easier life for them or to offer better care, this only reinforced the idea that people with disabilities preferred to be with “their own kind.” More recently, society and education systems are trying to provide mainstream opportunities to every person. People with disabilities are exploring the world and bringing value to their communities.

Myth: People without Disabilities Should Care for People with Disabilities

While people with disabilities may have different needs, they also prefer their independence. No one is ever obligated to care for someone with disabilities unless hired to do so. Just as anyone else is free to offer help to another member of society, someone with a disability can also offer to aid people.

Myth: Children Should Never Ask About Disability

Curiosity in children is normal. And while a child might not form a question in a way that adults would prefer, children should be allowed to ask their questions to a person with a disability without scolding from their parents. A scolding for asking questions about disability could cause the child to believe that disability is “wrong” or “bad.” As society tries to lift the stigma and stereotype about disability, it’s important that children are educated thoughtfully on the topic.

Myth: People with Disabilities Don’t Have Normal Lives

A weird assumption that continues is the idea that people with disabilities live sad lives. People with disabilities have lives that include education, relationships, household chores, vacations, community responsibilities, and so much more. While how they do some of these things might look different, they still have the ability to choose a full, happy life.

Myth: People with Disabilities Are in Constant Pain

This varies from person to person. After all, some conditions are chronically painful, while others are not. People with disabilities generally are not in constant pain, and they only suffer illness and pain occasionally like anyone else.

Myth: It’s Okay to Use an Accessible Parking Spot or Bathroom if it’s not Occupied

While it might be tempting to grab an accessible parking spot for a quick run into the grocery store or to opt for the large accessible stalls in the bathroom, these spaces are specifically designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Often, there is only one accessible bathroom stall or accessible parking space. It’s important that it is available for someone who actually needs it.

While stereotypes persist, it’s possible for society to change the narrative about these disability myths and stigmas. And it’s something that can be done, one person at a time. Some of the best ways that individuals within communities can create a world that eliminates barriers for people with disabilities is by planning events with accessibility in mind. By avoiding the use of limited accessible spaces such as parking spots or bathroom stalls, and speaking up when negative words or phrases are used about people with disabilities, we can all create an equitable world.

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Sources:
https://www.easterseals.com/explore-resources/facts-about-disability/myths-facts.html
https://www.michigan.gov/mcsc/0,4608,7-137-8074_22503_23185-63417--,00.html
http://www.markwynn.com/wp-content/uploads/Common-Myths-and-Misconceptions-about-Disability.pdf
https://www.meriahnichols.com/5-common-myths-about-disability/