Carys, a member of the FLARE disabled children and young people's group, blogs about running a disability awareness raising event at her Guides pack. She talks about how disabilities shouldn't be seen as limitations, and how disabled young people can achieve anything they set their minds to.
“Depressing?”, I asked her. “Why have you written “depressing”?”.
“Because disability is a sad topic.” She answered, bluntly.
Being a member of Girl Guiding, I’d run an evening on disability awareness for the younger girls. It was about 7 o’clock, and I’d asked everyone in the room to write down what they thought of when I said the word “disability”. After flicking through several Post-it notes with things scrawled on like “blind”, “wheelchairs”, or hastily drawn guide dogs, I’d stumbled across hers, and I was perplexed. This girl truly believed that disabilities were “depressing”.
And to an extent, I guess disabilities can appear to be sad. For some, they, inevitably, make life harder.
Mental maths, to most of my Guides, would have sounded like an easy, although laborious, thing to do on a Thursday evening. Start with 15, add 5, times 4…. Nothing that, for them, would require too much thought.
Until, that is, you play 3 different tracks of music to them simultaneously, and then start complaining about your maths exam over the top. Walking around the circle, I watched their faces screw up with concentration, or give up within the first 20 seconds. I can’t count the amount of times I had people screaming “stop!” or “I can’t do it!” to me.
Fortunately for them, they have a choice.
People with special educational needs, disabilities, or mental health conditions can’t quit and then start over again easily. They can’t turn off the blaring music. They have to keep going, or miss out on opportunities.
There’s only a certain amount of times I can hear the words: “I don’t know how you do it, Carys…” before I start to wonder why people assume I can’t do it. Throughout all my life I’ve heard the words “you can’t” or “are you sure?” to an extent it would make most people question whether they truly can.
No wonder the percentage of those with both a disability and mental health disorder is so high compared to non-disabled peers.
The word disability conjures up images in people’s minds. A guide dog, a walking stick, a wheelchair. And with these images, we have an image of what their limitations are. And the ideas of these limitations may seem sad or upsetting to many. But take time to think past them, and think about how many people go past these limitations. It is only then you will see the true image of disabilities. The fact is that an image of disabled people would mostly consist of people who you wouldn’t be able to guess have a disability.
A group of people who have ups, and they have downs, like everyone else.
An image of people who deal with their challenges.
Because disabilities aren’t “depressing”. To me, they don’t even seem sad. If anything, I believe my disability has made me into the person I am today, has taught me to be compassionate, and has shown me that I can do anything I set my mind to.
Disability to some means a wheelchair.
Disability to others may mean a hearing aid.
But disability can’t be put into a simple picture.
Because it’s part of a building block that makes the person, and we must all decide how far we can let it affect us.
We all try so hard to be understood, that sometimes we forget to be understanding. Understanding that someone who is blind may have limitations, and may not. Understanding that everyone has their own limitations, and that people with SEND deserve to be treated with the same respect.
“Depressing...” I said to her, once again. “Why are disabilities a sad topic?”
“Because,” she answered “they can’t do things.”
“Just because” I whispered, “you may not be able to see in the dark, doesn’t mean that you will never be able to. Your friends may help you, when you can’t see yet. You just have to keep your eyes open, and try again.”