We are constantly confronted with the differences between able-bodied and disabled people, and my focus here is to explore whether or not this impacts the quality of life that disabled people have. It’s a common assumption that people with disabilities are less fortunate and unable to lead a fulfilling life. Of course, I can recognise that I myself require some adaptations and help in certain situations, but I would also argue that so do many non-disabled people. For example, often people can have hidden disabilities (such as an illness or even dyslexia, etc.). For an able-bodied person, dyslexia could be a barrier to everyday communication.
A lower quality of life would not result from this if the adaptations were put in place beforehand.
It is normal for both able-bodied people and disabled people to require help at certain points in their lives, although disabled people are often unwilling to ask for help because of pride, dignity and being unsure of the willingness of others to help. There is also a societal stigma that asking for help is a bad thing, and this stigma disproportionately affects disabled people. Non-disabled individuals can often become impatient, because they see their needs as being too complex and self-indulgent.
Another aspect that I feel is important to mention, is that just because you might have a physical disability, this does not entail that you would necessarily have a psychological impairment. In the past, I have experienced individuals who would rather talk to my PA than me because they have a preconceived idea about my disability. These kinds of assumptions are damaging to my self-worth and motivate me to educate people and raise awareness about disability in general. However, I believe that judgements can be made from more than one perspective, as we often hold irrational opinions unjustly. I believe that it’s about a shift in attitudes; only recently have I been able to overcome the worry that people would automatically judge me. I was of the belief that people would not be able to see beyond my wheelchair, because this lack of understanding is something I had experienced in the past. As a result, thinking in this way was destructive, because I limited my options on whom I should socialise with. This mistake in judgement has made me realise that we all need to be more open to what is unfamiliar to us; if we were more open, it would create more knowledge and acceptance in society.
We need to stop measuring the worth of disabled people in reference to able-bodied people. For instance, disabled people often have to do something extraordinary to be recognised, it’s almost as if we have to prove ourselves to society in some way. This could make someone feel as if have they have to become a bigger character to be noticed, which could lead to anger and frustration for some disabled people. But every person has something to offer, and our physicality should not define who we are able to become.
Lastly, having compared able-bodied and disabled people, I think that we aren’t that dissimilar because of our mind-sets. Our lives intertwine insofar as we can both achieve the same quality of life. I still believe that what constitutes as living a ‘good life’ is subjective for everyone, but mainly we aim at similar goals. Personally, I feel that happiness lies in a balance between: learning, creativity, family, friendships, love, and making the most of your environment. All of these qualities of life are available to both able-bodied and disabled people. It’s only natural for us to compare ourselves and focus on our flaws, but to achieve happiness, we have to utilise what we do have, and recognise our strengths. Unfortunately, it is a paradox of life that usually we are unable to appreciate fully the things that we feel are important to us, until we are put to the test, and maybe lose them; although from this we learn to be resilient and grow as human beings. Ultimately, our quality of life is dependant on whether we are able to bounce back from the negative experiences that most of us go through at some point or other. This is why I now maintain that even if we all have different physical capabilities, fundamentally we all have the ability to achieve contentment.
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