Breaking Barriers

There are a lot of falsehoods in the disability community that should be put to rest. One of the most popular falsehoods is that disabled people are lazy. That is the furthest thing from the truth. A disability can come in many forms, whether physical or mental. As the parent of a child that is slightly disabled due to a learning disability, I watch her struggle each day. She is unable to process information as you and I would. My daughter tries hard to fit in, but I watch with tears in my eyes when she is unable to comprehend basic information. It takes her twice as long to complete her math and reading assignments. As a result, she finds herself having to seek assistance on the most basic schoolwork. She struggles through testing and lacks confidence. At the end of each school year, I track her hours that she puts in on her assignments. Last year she studied an additional 962 hours more than her friends just to get on the most basic level.      

On the flip side, as her mom with a disability, people find it hard to believe that I am physically disabled due to my young age. People say that I am too young to be disabled. Well, news flash! Disability comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and ages. I find myself fighting against these stereotypes all the time. I have had to prove that I am disabled but not lazy. I work hard as heck to break through barriers. I explain to people that I can work just as well as others that are abled bodied, but it just takes longer. Restroom breaks are about 25 minutes in length because of transfer issues. The lack of use in my arms and legs usually adds an additional 15 to 30 minutes to all my activities. Getting dressed in the morning takes about 4 hours. When I have to be at work at 8 a.m. I must be up by 4 a.m. Those times are not indicative of someone who’s lazy.

There are so many misconceptions and biases that those with disabilities face. It becomes a constant struggle to debunk the many falsehoods. We are hard working, loveable individuals that demand the same respect as those that are not disabled. It is important especially important today that we keep diversity and inclusion in the forefront.

One if the biggest misconceptions is that people with disabilities are helpless. With the increase of technology-based products and the advancement of medicine, many people with disabilities can live a “normal” and productive life. We no longer have to sit on the sidelines. There are adaptive sports such as basketball, soccer, baseball, golf, curling, hockey, and even full-contact rugby, to name a few. Pageants have been created for wheelchair users, such as Miss America and Miss USA. The Olympics are not just for those who are abled bodied but those with disabilities too. We have evolved as a country in some areas, but we have quite a bit of work to do to rid the world of some of the stereotypes previously mentioned.

As a society, we mustn’t be quick to judge or add fuel to the many falsehoods about people with disabilities. In a world of inequality, we are simply asking to be treated equal. In a world of cultural biases, we simply want to be accepted. When it comes to the many social injustices we face, we just want and demand to be treated fairly. We have come a long way as a society, but we have a long way to go. Until then, let us keep moving, pushing, and rolling on.

About Merlisha Henderson: Merlisha lives in Arizona with her family. As a wife, mother and disability advocate in her community, she stays active and independent, working toward bringing equality and access to all. Click here to learn more about Merlisha.