To say that the “disabled are human too” may sound strange to your ears. Of course, they are human. However, have you ever watched how some elderly or disabled are treated by totally able bodied strangers.
Sympathy & Empathy
Jay says, “I always had sympathy for the disabled. I would try to help them and be nice to them but I never understood them! That is until I started taking full-time care of my disabled elderly friend some years ago. I then realized how blind I had been and why it was impossible for me to empathize with them. Because I did not know any better! But now, I can put myself in their shoes and see clearly the kind of tough life that they have to endure. Mind you, their lives are difficult even with having a caring person taking care of them. Can you imagine how it would be for them without having such a care? Either way, they can never experience the life that able bodied people can have.”
Social Experiment as a disabled person
Sometime ago, we read about a social experiment on that very subject. An actor dressed up as an elderly lady who needed to use a cane to get around. Ace bandages were wrapped around his legs to simulate the difficulty of walking with arthritis.
He wore a pair of thick glasses to truly make it difficult for him to see. He went about normal public activities all day long. He did some shopping, rode a bus and was generally trying to do the same things that he normally would do… But only now in the garbs of disability. With his garb, he had difficulty walking, seeing, and keeping his balance. The cane was a necessary accessory by that time.
At the end of the day, he had been pushed, shoved, and been spoken to rudely. A few kind people had tried to assist him with things, but most people just ignored him and left him to fend for himself.
The actor was astounded at the difficulties a real disabled person had to deal with just to get through an ordinary day. He vowed to never ignore the disabled again.
A similar social experiment was done in India and this time it was on camera. Here is the video if you would like to watch. It is a bit disturbing.
Some Hard Facts About Disability
Around 15% of the global population, or over 1 billion human beings, are disabled in the world today, a number that is constantly increasing.
It is hard for the average healthy person to relate to the difficult lifestyle and wellbeing of the disabled. This usually is not due to lack of concern for our fellow humans. It is not knowing what the disabled have to face just to get through their daily life. They have to deal with medical and physical care, lack of financial support and insufficient income.
Medical Care for Disabled People
Unfortunately, many of the disabled all over the world are facing the tragedy of not receiving the adequate health and medical care they need. The majority of disabled people are dependent on some type of government benefit. Some luckier ones may have private or employer medical benefits. However, many of these benefits have been reduced or discontinued for the disabled.
You may say, “but there is Medicaid (in the United States) for the poor and disabled.” However, there are limits to the amount of resources that one can have and still receive Medicaid. Even with Medicaid, patients fear that tests and treatments that they need will not be covered.
Just Above the Line
There are a lot of people who sort of fall between the cracks. They do not have the funds they need for many of their needed expenses. But their income is just above where it needs to be (poverty line) for them to qualify for government programs.
So, as a sad consequence, many of the disabled are simply left to help themselves in managing their health and medical care the best way they can! Some have friends and family who can help them but many do not. Glenda recently met a lady who lost the ability to have in home help simply because her income rose above the poverty line. She is now struggling to do things for herself.
The point of this article, however, is to bring to light the fact that many disabled people are treated like second class citizens. We gave you an example in the experiments above.
Disabled People Still Have Worth
Glenda here: In my work in Home Health, I see a lot of elderly people who have downsized their homes and live in cramped quarters. One of my clients is physically disabled to the point of needing some assistance but can still live alone. One thing that infuriates her is when she overhears someone talking about her in a manner that indicates that they think that she is also mentally handicapped. That lady is smart as they come.
Jay also witnessed a similar situation in the grocery store some time back. It seems that an individual was working as a check out clerk even though both her legs had been amputated. That was a lady who was working despite the difficulty of disability. She should have been commended. Instead, Jay overheard the customer in line in front of him make an unkind remark as she got out of line and went to another. She made a statement that she did not want that dimwitted person checking out her groceries!
Since when does amputating one’s legs cause a loss of brain power in the head?
On the other hand, there are some hard working individuals who do have mental disabilities as well. Are they any less worthy of simple respect? These individuals have to work harder than the rest of us to accomplish the same things.
Having a physical or mental disability does not mean that one no longer has worth. It does not mean that they are a second class citizen. It does not mean that you can talk negatively about them or talk to them in a condescending way.
Disabled people are just like you and me. They simply have a disability that makes life more difficult for them. They still have feelings. They still have the wisdom that comes from living the particular version of life with which they have been dealt.
The disabled are indeed human too. They have many of the same thoughts, needs and desires of the rest of society. They have a need to be productive and useful in some way themselves. They have a need for loving human interaction too.
Making a Difference
We are not telling you all this to depress you. But rather, we would like to challenge you! As you go about your day, pay attention when you come across someone who because of a disability has a harder time doing ordinary things.
There are many levels of disability ranging from mildly disabled to severe. These are not statistics. These are people.
Think how you can make someone smile.
Think how you can make life a little bit easier.
Think how you can help someone to know that they too are appreciated.
If you have a disabled friend or a disabled family member, let them know they are important to you. They often feel like a burden. If someone cares about them or cares what happens to them… they need to know it. Will you tell them? You can make a great difference. Are you willing to do that?
Life is precious. We never know what is just around the corner for each of us. We might be one car accident away from severe disability ourselves. Would you want to be treated the way you may now be treating the disabled?
Maybe you just never thought about it. Just maybe, you are full of compassion yourself but you just have no experience with someone who has a disability. We just want you to be aware that the time may come when you can make a real difference in someone’s life. We hope that you will… And we also hope that you experience the splendid joy that can bring.