How Perceptions of Disability Can Impact Relationships and What to Do About It
By Adria Nassim
It’s not uncommon for kids with disabilities to experience teasing, bullying, or insults from other children because of their circumstances. But what do you do when those who treat your child inappropriately are fully-grown adults?
Most of the time, as kids grow and become adults, they also become more mature, more highly educated, and gain a greater opportunity to experience social and cultural diversity. However, occasionally, this is not the case. When a teen or young adult with disabilities experiences an inappropriate interaction with another adult involving their diagnosis, I think it’s very important to keep in mind that the actions of these people, who may make insensitive comments, often stem from a lack of education and a lack of exposure and experiences with people with disabilities.
Therefore, I think it is critically important for our society to continue to incorporate measures such as disability training and sensitivity programs as part of the workforce, as well as to establish a priority to increase recruitment efforts aimed toward hiring young people with disabilities. It’s certainly important that young adults with disabilities find a place where they can feel valued and can use their skills to make a positive impact on the world. But added to that, it’s important that “typical” young adults see people with disabilities out in the general community doing the things that they themselves also do every day.
Young people with disabilities who feel uncomfortable around their workplace peers may want to check out the article “Trouble Fitting In? 8 Ways to Make Friends at Work,” from Business News Daily. Those who feel they’re being harassed, mocked, or even bullied at work, however, may need to tell a supervisor, who can address the situation appropriately.
We can help educate the public with our community involvement.
I think the more time that typical young people spend around those with disabilities, the more sensitive and aware they become, and consequently, the less likely they’ll be to say or behave inappropriately. In fact, when I am looking for friends to hang out with, I pay close attention to how they react when I start to talk about the subject of living life with disabilities. I watch to see if they grow quiet or if they ask questions in what seems to be an invasive tone such as: “What’s the dog for anyway?” as they look over at my service dog, Lucy, or “What happened to you?” as they glance quickly down at the plastic leg brace.
Even though I know it’s impolite, and that questions like this usually only come from lack of knowledge, sometimes I want to say something like, “Oh, nothing really happened, just life in general, you know. I was born. I came this way. Moving parts and all.” But I don’t.
“I came this way. Moving parts and all.”
I also think a lot of the lack of understanding America seems to have stems from the idea that disability is something that always involves severe physical or intellectual challenges or something sensory-related, such as difficulty with hearing or vision.
However, what if the individual’s challenges relate to none of these areas? What if the individual is very academically talented and intellectual? This is much harder for the public to understand, and I think our country needs to continue to do a better job of public education and awareness surrounding all types and levels of disability, not just a certain few.