Nearly 1 in 5 people in the United States have a disability, according to the U.S. Census. There are so many different disabilities in the world that it would be impossible to name them all; therefore, people experience the symptoms and challenges of their specific disability very differently. One challenge that almost all disabled individuals experience, however, is adversity and the ignorance of others.
A disability can be a lot of things, from a physical impairment to a mental illness and many things in between. One thing that a disability will never be, however, is stupidity.
There is an atmosphere surrounding disabilities that says that individuals with disabilities are stupid and incapable. While that attitude is not exclusive to college campuses, it is still very present among them, including the UTM campus.
I am a student who is registered through the Office of Disability Services for a visual impairment that effects what I can see and do. For example, I have trouble seeing average sized fonts, I struggle walking up and down stairs because of depth perception issues and I cannot recognize many small details. However, don’t misunderstand—I can still see the way you look me up and down while I wait for the elevator, I can still hear your snickers when I trip and I can still feel your stares when I hold a book or paper “too close” to my face. My eyes may not work the way that a doctor says they are supposed to, but my feelings do, and so do the feelings of every other person with a disability. We can still feel the sting of rejection and the burn of embarrassment.
It is bad enough to be considered different just because a part of our biological make-up does not work the way that science and medicine say they are supposed to, but people drawing conclusions about our capabilities and intelligence make it even worse. Let’s get on the same page about something: a disability has absolutely nothing to do with someone’s intellect, skill set or, most importantly, worth as a human being. No, that is not my opinion, that is a fact that individuals from the disability community have proven time and time again.
A few famous and historical examples of people who went above and beyond societal expectations despite their disabilities, according to Disabled World, include Albert Einstein (Autism), Harrison Ford (Depression as a child), Thomas Edison (hearing impaired), Franklin D. Roosevelt (Paraplegic due to Polio), Harriet Tubman (visually impaired and suffered from seizures), and David Beckham (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
Several of these may have been surprising, but what seems to shock people even more is that non-famous people with disabilities are doing amazing things in their personal lives and career fields every single day. Even on this campus, there are plenty of people with disabilities participating in the Honors program, receiving scholarships, dominating sports teams, excelling at their classes, leading social and academic organizations and so much more. Believe it or not, there are over 280 students registered with the Office of Disability Services.
Just because someone may not look like they have a disability does not mean that they don’t. Invisible disabilities, or disabilities that are not obviously noticeable, are just as common, if not more so, than visible disabilities. Therefore, if you see someone struggling or acting differently than you would typically expect, you should not automatically assume that they are stupid or incapable.
People with visible and invisible disabilities alike are beautiful, intelligent and worthy in their own unique ways. Our disabilities may make our lives a little more interesting and daily tasks a little more challenging, but they do not hold us back from being the people we were meant to be, and leaving our mark on the world.
(Photo Credit/Creative Commons)