aking a walk on the beach, soaking in the view while listening to your favorite song, and singing along are the little things we take for granted. This pandemic might have given us all enough time to reflect and better value these things, but imagine those who still can’t take that walk or even hear a sound? This is their constant reality, and the last thing people with disabilities need is stigma.
Something about being different from your classmates, colleagues, or even random strangers at the mall puts undue pressure on people with disabilities. For many people with disabilities, there’s a constant feeling of being lesser or not as privileged as others, so simply being kind is always a great way to help ease such unease.
“There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.” ~Robert M. Hensel.
What is a disability?
A disability is a condition or function perceived to be obviously damaged relative to the usual standard of an individual or group. Disabilities range from physical to mental, but none is more impactful than the other. Every person with disabilities has individual battles that shouldn’t be compared or downplayed.
Sometimes people with disabilities have capabilities that aren’t easily detected. Whether these disabilities are in plain sight or not, there are ways to help them live better lives. Thankfully, many efforts have been made to help people with disabilities easily access the world, but there’s still a lot to be done to simplify their lives.
People with disabilities need healthy self-esteem to remain comfortable in their skin and have optimum mental health. These days, persons like Taonere Bandas who are living with disabilities are striving beyond the stigma and relentlessly charging towards the mark.
Here’s how you can support people living with disabilities…
#1. Normalize them
The stares in a public place, avoiding them like the plague, children pointing, or people being overtly pitiful, may only succeed in creating more insecure people with disabilities, who may end up developing social anxiety at the mere thought of leaving their home. Normalize and properly acknowledge them with a genuine smile, be kinder, and offer to help when needed. Act like they are a normal part of society because they are.
#2. Don’t assume they need help
Grown-ups with disabilities should be treated like every other adult. Don’t just help them cross the road; ask them if they need help, and kindly oblige their reply. Sometimes, individuals would feel more comfortable helping themselves than constantly being reminded that they can, while others genuinely need that help. He might not have been sitting at that bus stop, hoping to be helped to the other side of the road. The key is to ask them and not assume on their behalf.
#3. Watch your tone
There’s nothing as infantilizing as talking in a high, low, or funny tone when speaking to people with disabilities. Speak as you’d typically do, unless told otherwise. Communicate respectfully to them, and be sure to stay calm and be yourself. They are humans, just like you.
#4. Help them magnify their strengths
Every now and then, people with disabilities get overwhelmed and frustrated. If they’re your friend or family, this is the right time to show up for them and remind them about the good in them, their strengths, and how they are loved and needed. This shouldn’t be confused for patronizing. So be sure to always offer only simple words of affirmation. We all need words of affirmation every once in a while.
#5. Pay attention to their emotional and mental health
If you notice a friend or family member is slipping into depression, anxiety, or has low self-esteem that’s beginning to affect them profoundly, advise them on joining a disability support group or talking to a licensed therapist for help. Sometimes talking to people who can relate to your predicament makes you more comfortable and understood.
In times like this, you can also refer them to telepsychiatry companies to see a therapist from the comfort of home.
- It’s better to say “person/people with disabilities” instead of a “disabled person.”
- Avoid using historically stigmatized words like retard, crazy, lunatic and mad when referring to a mentally disabled person.
- Saying ‘mentally ill’ or referring to the disabled person’s exact condition is a kinder way to address them.
- I know you might mean well, but pretending to have a disability to relate with people living with a disabilities is offensive.
- The golden rule will forever stand; “do unto others as you want to be done to you.”