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woman in wheelchair enjoying summer vacation on the  beach



Living with a disability can be frustrating both for the person with the condition and their family. This frustration can turn into pleasure when life goals are achieved even from the earliest goal of learning to crawl, to writing your name. It doesn’t matter how small the achievement is it is the next step to independence.

Why hear about what it is like to live with a disability? If it doesn’t involve me or anyone I know personally (friends or family) why bother?

People with disabilities live in a world designed primarily for the able-bodied. People with disabilities want to live life no differently than anyone else. They want to be able to go shopping, go to the movies, go out to eat, work, and enjoy life, fully realizing that must be done within the boundaries of their limitations.

Accepting disability and redefining life within the limitations imposed by disease is the biggest hurdle for people with disabilities. There are harsh realities. Expensive equipment and medications may be required. Mobility scooters, adapted vans, voice-recognition software, orthotics, medical treatment, and myriad types of assistive equipment improve daily living for people with disabilities but it all comes at a price.

Adapt and adjust becomes the mantra of a person living with a disability. People with disabilities may be forced to change careers or not work at all. They may be forced to relinquish some of their independence.

There are experiences some able-bodied people may take for granted which people with disabilities must forgo. Disabled people may miss out on: (1) the joy of rough-housing with children; (2) playing competitive sports; (3) traveling and (4) long road-trips (personally I don’t think this is the case,   I am not going to having an amputation and a prosthetic device stop me from things that I have always enjoyed).

Crowded events become daunting, social situations become uncomfortable.

What can be more frustrating than harsh realities are subtle realities for people with disabilities? Living with disability is difficult but can sting even more when people encountered are: (1) impatient; (2) rude; (3) insensitive; (4) inconsiderate; (5) pessimistic and (6) unhelpful.

Impatient people try to rush people with disabilities through life. Inconsiderate people can be found using handicapped bathroom stalls and handicapped parking spots, facilities specifically designated for people with disabilities. Inconsiderate people do not hold doors open, a simple action that can make things much easier for a disabled person.

Rude and insensitive people are often found staring at people with disabilities. They seem to not like what they see, or imagine themselves in the role of the disabled person. It creates an uncomfortable situation unless you ignore the person who is staring.

Demanding people and those who lack understanding about the realities of your disability can also be provoking. Pessimistic people can annoy and be hurtful. Pessimistic people focus on the negative aspects of having a disability instead of trying to build up, encourage, and praise the accomplishments of people with disabilities. Pessimistic or negative people don’t want to learn about the realities of living with disability. They have preconceived ideas and often treat physically disabled people as if they are faking or lazy. Even worse, negative people sometimes treat physically disabled people as if they have no abilities at all.

Unhelpful people are yet another category of people who can annoy and frustrate disabled people. For able-bodied people, most tasks are effortless. The same task for a disabled person is perhaps impossibility. Changing lightbulbs or air conditioner filters, scrubbing showers, getting a large load of groceries – it’s just part of daily living. Who does it for the disabled person, especially one who has collected on all of the favors owed to them?

What you can control, whether you are able-bodied or disabled, is yourself. All humans face challenges, it’s just that people with disabilities face different challenges. You will not rid the world of impatient, rude, insensitive people, but you can control how you react to them. (a) Impatient people cause you to be more patient; (b) Insensitive people cause you to be more sensitive; and (c) Negative people cause you to react with positivity.

For each negative person you encounter, you have many more positive encounters. Surround yourself with people, things, and experiences which make you feel good and do well.

It does matter how the able-bodied and those with a disability relate and interact with each other. I see more and more of it on a daily basis especially now that I have certain limitations as a result of the amputation. I will be getting a prosthetic limb, in the next several months.   But I am not going to let much deter me, when I need help with something I will ask, and trust that my request will be         received positively. I am determined to keep my life as normal as possible and keep growing and challenging myself on a regular basis.   Being positive and offering encouragement helps the person with a disability more than one can realize and helps in boosting up their confidence and self-esteem.

Kathy Kiefer


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