Understand, I’m Only Disabled

Hey guys:

I hope you’re all well, and ready for a fairly long post today; it’s taken me over an hour to write, rewrite, proofread and edit. I don’t often take that much time over a post, but this is something that matters a lot to me, and I feel that it deserves my greatest respect.

I saw a post on a blog which has only recently been created. It is written and run by one of my closest friends, who has helped me out on many occasion. You can find the post, and subsequently her blog, Here. Already, she’s written some great stuff, which I recommend you check out. This post was about the misconceptions associated with having a visual impairment, as both of us do. One of her points relates to the common belief that being blind also, in some way, means that an individual must be of lesser intelligence.

I would like to say that this blog proves that theory wrong, but I’d be lying if I told you guys that!
However, I hope that you guys have some common sense, and can figure out that this “myth” is not true. Blindness is to do with the eyes, and just because someone’s eyes don’t function, that doesn’t make them less intelligent, or not as nice a person.

Unfortuantely, I can fully understand why people make this misguided assumption. Society has drummed it into our heads that disabled people are helpless, needy individuals. It’s taught that disabled people rely on the abled-bodied – so-called “normal” people – to live our daily lives. Even the word “disability” begins with a negative prefix, “dis”, suggesting negativity or a lack of ability. And so, with the presumption that disabled people can’t live their daily lives independently comes the “understanding” that disabled people must therefore be unable to think for themselves, unable to act as an individual. Again, this is not true.

I ofen surprise members of the public whe, for example, I stand up from sitting down on a train and unfold my white cane. It’s not unusual for the people around me to fall silent, before the whispering and muttering begins.
“Is he BLIND?”
“Is he on his own?”
“Do you think he needs help?”
“poor lad…”
What shocks them more is when I independently negociate my way out of the carriage, to the doors and locate the button to release the doors once the train has pulled into my station and the doors have been unlocked.

Despite the queries over whether I might need a sighted person’s assistance, I very rarely get approached with the offer of help. Despite the misleading teachings of society in regards to the inability of disabled people to live our lives, people tend to feel an overwhelming sense of awkwardness or uncomfortableness when the prospect of having to help a blind person reveals itself to them. I can only blame this on certain disabled people who, when offered some form of assistance, rather rudely reject the well-intended offer, and show signs of offense that someone thought they were incapable. I cannot express how disappointing this is, because these very negative people’s reactions have most certainly created difficult situations for disabled people, especially those with less confidence.
In no way am I saying that an able-bodied person should not offer assistance to a disabled person if they look like they potentially might need some help. I mean, if anything, it’s common curtesy and social awareness. But besides that, there will be a situation, one day, in one place or another, where a disabled person does need assistance of some sort, but perhaps lacks the confidence to request it. By rudely refusing help when it is offered, a disabled individual is effectively creating more misconceptions and confusion around the topic of disability, as well as putting other disabled individuals at a distinct disadvantage.
I suppose what I’m saying here is to offer help to disabled people, not fear them, or just look on pitifully, but do nothing. On the other hand, do not make the fatal mistake of giving help without asking first; you’d be surprised how many stories I hear from blind and visually impaired people who have been helped [and I use that term very loosely] across a road, when in fact they had absolutely no intention of crossing it in the first place.

The other misconception relating to disability, and the presumption that disabled people are incapable or of a lesser intellectual standard to “normal” people is that disabled people can’t speak for themselves. Often, when I’m out with an adult, like my parents or a mobility professional [which is a frequent occurrence as I get closer and closer to training with a Guide dog], people will approach us, the same pitiful, sorrowful look plastered all over their face. They’ll stop, look condescendingly down at me, and say to my companion: “Isn’t it such a shame, him being blind”.
This, of all things, angers me a lot. For starters, I am present, and can hear every word you’re saying. Would you walk into a room, notice a very tall person and say to your friend: “Oh, isn’t it a shame that they’re so tall?”
No, of course you wouldn’t; it’s rude, it’s condescending and it’s patronising. But worse, people don’t just stop there: they’ll ask my companion all about me – whether I read braille, what my ”long stick” is for [that one always cracks me up; it just sounds inappropriate], and so on. My current technique for dealing with these people is anwering the questions aimed at whoever is with me myself.
“Does he read Braille?”
“Yes, yes, I do thank you very much.”

I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with curious people; I think it’s great that people want to know more about disabled people, and the different ways in which we live our lives. I do have an issue with people incorrectly assuming that I can’t talk for myself, because trust me, if you knew me in real life [I hate that term], you’d know that I am more than capable of speaking, and speaking for a rather long period of time at that.

For the first time ever on this blog, today, I set you all a challenge:
If you see a disabled person who looks like they may want some assistance – perhaps getting off of a bus or a train, or crossing the road, or finding the shop -, go up to them and ask them. Offer your help, because there’s nothing that makes my day more than a member of the public showing some social awareness, and asking if they can help. I’m sure there are other disabled people out there who feel similarly. If they say no, don’t be disheartened – just accept their decision and keep on going. Although help can be invaluable, it can also be unnecessary, and however harsh that sounds, having help at the wrong time can lead to a disabled person relying on others, and when there isn’t anyone to rely on, problems occur.

I’m going to leave you with a quote which initially appears fairly simple and plain, but means a lot when you look into it and think about it:
I’m a person with a disability, not a disabled person.

Thank you for reading this unusually long post, but it’s on something I care for, and feel passionately about. Don’t forget to check out
My friend’s blog.

L XX

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36 thoughts on “Understand, I’m Only Disabled

  1. L, this is such a wonderful post, it’s so well written and it’s easy to tell you’re passionate, and it gets a really good message across. Thanks for this. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a really thoughtful message. I understand it can be bothering how people don’t think you can speak for yourself just because you have a disability – not from experience, but it’s fairly easy for me to see things from multiple perspectives. xP But yes, I agree. You’re blind, not deaf, the two are completely different things. But if you think about it, some of the most inspirational people were blind. (Sorry, I forgot his name) was blind his whole life and actually learned his own way of echolocation – the only human alive who can use it (I think) and many other people have done amazing things while being blind; and I’m sure you will too. Of course you’re capable of yourself, and everyone sometimes wants help, whether they have a handicap or not. You’re not helpless; you are capable and intelligent, don’t let anyone’s misconceptions get to you.
    And I will help a disabled person if I see one. It’s always a good deed to help others, whether they’re disabled or not. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love to see this from your point of view! Your writing is so passionate and purposeful, it makes me want to search the world for at least one blind person and offer them my help to its full extent. I accept your challenge!

    By the way, can you check the links to make sure they’re working? It didn’t work for me, but I’d love to check out your friend’s blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post, because it can be applied to all sorts of disabilities. My friends little brother has a mild learning disability. We saw this other boy at a camp with what seems like a similar disability, and people were making fun of him bc he was taking a lot of gravy, and they were saying it was bc of his disability he was struggling and didn’t know when to stop or something (the memory’s sorta vague). My friend cried at him getting picked on, whilst I was seriously pissed off and wanted to tell them off, but then they stopped. It’s things like that that piss me off, honestly. Like THEY CAN’T HELP IT. AND JUST BC THEY HAVE A LEARNING DISABILITY DOESN’T MAKE THEM INCAPABLE OF LEARNING OKAY?

    I personally have anxiety too, and my mums work colleague I believe was diagnosed with GAD. My mum was ranting about how she barely did anything and that she was ending up with all of her work, and when I mentioned getting her to do more, she replied with “What if i give her too much work and she breaks? You never know when she might.” That made me really annoyed and I (sort of which I’m not proud of) shouted at my mum telling her that work is work, and nobody with anxiety wants you to tiptoe around them and give them as little as they can, because the fact that someone has broken down with an anxiety attack all weak, doesn’t mean they’ll constantly be weak and constantly panicking??

    oh wow this turned super ranty, I originally came here to ask (bc I’m genuinely curious) how do you write your blogposts and proofread them? (bc I imagine like this cool as heck wooden braille keyboard that you can type on and then you can click this button and itll print out this copy that you can read and correct your mistakes all on, but I highly doubt it’s like that)

    – Jess x | http://amessofjess.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hate it when people treat people with Learning Disabilities in a patronising or just plain insulting way. What’s even worse, I find, is when people with a disability, whether it be the same one as their target, bullies another person with the same or different disability. They should know how it feels; how much it hurts to be targeted, and yet they’re happy to inflict that pain on someone else. And that Braille contraption needs to be invented; you could earn millions, I tell you, millions. I usually use either a laptop or my iPad, which are both equipped with screen-reading software. This reads what’s on the screen, in synthetic speech, enabling me to spot mistakes and edit my posts. The screen-reader on the iPad is built-in, and comes with the device itself, which is also true for the iPhone, which is my phone type of choice because of this. There is a device which allows you to type using a Braille keyboard, and to read what you typed on an electronic Braille display beneath the keyboard; the Braille characters are represented by blunt pins, which refresh to reflect the changes applied when the user moves to the next line. I hope that made some kind of sense xD XX

      Like

      1. ooh that sounds really cool!! also, is it true that bc you’re blind you have some sort of badass hearing ability? (and lol I don’t mean that literally xD it just makes it sound super cool)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay, not going to lie. This post made me cry. I’ve seen these things happen so many times in public places like bus stops and restaurants and trains as you mentioned, and it makes me cringe when people say that “oh, he’s/she’s blind, maybe he/she needs help.” No! They’re perfectly capable of doing things on their own!
    On a more positive note, your blog inspires me so much in every way, keep writing xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey – thank you so much! I’m so glad you got what I was trying to say with this post, and that you agree, although of course alternative opinions are more than welcome. Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog; that means ever so much to me XX

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great post. I think most people feel insecure around people that are different from them. They don’t know what to do and that makes them uncomfortable what leads to them acting stupid. Telling people how you feel in situations like this is the first step to actually changing something. What you are doing is great. I love to read your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post L! I appreciate you writing this and letting us know your thoughts about this subject. I hear bad comments all the time about people with disabilities and it frustrates me so much that people can be so… Mean.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I just want to say, what an amazing post you made! 😀
    I see this issue almost every time there is a person with a disability outside. People shouldn’t pity others with disabilities, but more like let them do what they are capable of, then help if they need it.You have delivered a really good message to people out there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a thoughtful and well-expressed post. It’s ridiculous the ignorant things that people come out with sometimes, and I’m so sorry that this has had to affect you (and anyone else) personally. Keep spreading this message, and hopefully soon the idiots will get it. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Everyone NEEDS to see this. It’s high time society learns that blind, deaf, mute doesn’t mean unintelligent or helpless. You’ve done an amazing job of putting this message out there.

    Liked by 1 person

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