My Personal Opinion On The Way People Look At Individuals With Disabilites

We as a Society have a habit of looking at Individuals who are different from ourselves as “not normal”, who are we to define who or what is considered “normal”?

We all have some sort of disability, whether it be we talk to fast or to slow, maybe we have troubles hearing things, writing, or maybe the way we interact with others etc.

I personally view all individuals as unique and it may only be my opinion but I feel that if we judge everyone that is different from what we consider to be “normal” when will that judgment turn back on ourselves?

Being an advocate for individuals with disabilities is a very rewarding task, for someone who has no one to stand up for them or just needs someone else to help, and advocate can have a positive impact on the lives of those whom they help.

I was given the opportunity to be an advocate for someone with severe mental disabilities and i was more than willing to be there for her every step of the way. The individual i was an advocate for could not speak so she voiced what she wanted through sign language (she did not know sign language so between her and myself, we developed signs so that she could communicate with me) and i fought for everything she wanted. Her wants and dreams to many of us might have been small but to her they were her whole life. All she wanted was the right to go swimming or to the movies etc, basically she wanted the right to live, and after many of months of fighting the community as well as her family, we achieved her goals and dreams! Today she is happy, i check on her every now and then and she still communicates with me in her own specials way. Her parents have also informed me that she is in better shape than she has ever been and they have never seen her smile so much!

Just knowing that i helped an individual with disabilities achieve her wants and dreams (however little we might see them), that is a big enough reward for me…

The next time you see someone who needs help, whether they have a disability or not, ask them if you can lend a hand. Watch the smile that comes across that individuals face. Just knowing that someone is willing to lend a hand, and that someone out there cares, can improve someone’s life in ways that are without words.


Evoloution Of A Movement

Historically, disabilities have often been cast in a negative light. An individual thus affected was seen as being a “patient” subject either to cure or to ongoing medical care. His/her condition is seen as disabling; the social reactions to it are justified, and the barriers unavoidable. This position is known as the medical model of disability.

Over the past 20 years, a competing view known as the social model of disability has come to the fore. In this model, disability is seen more as a social construction than a medical reality. An individual may be impaired by a condition that requires daily living adaptations, but the bulk of his problem – his/her disability – can be found in the attitudinal and physical barriers erected by society.

Both the medical and social models agree, to a point, that facilities and opportunities should be made as accessible as possible to individuals who require adaptations. Dismantling physical barriers, or setting up adaptations such as wheelchair ramps, is known as “fostering accessibility”.

Disability advocates speak out in support of Avery Ottenbreit

I read this article on and I wanted to share it with you because it is just another example of how more of us need to be more understanding and compasionate towards others that have a disability of any kind. This article was very touching and I believe that many out there will appreciate it for what it has to offer.

One day after Avery Ottenbreit’s return to the Queen City, disability advocates in Saskatchewan spoke out in support of the Regina teenager.

The 15-year-old quadriplegic’s trip home from Ottawa was delayed because of WestJet’s refusal to allow her to fly using her personal comfort harness.

Michael Richter, the executive director of the South Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre, was upset that WestJet delayed Avery’s trip because the airline deemed the harness unsafe for air travel.

“I would go as far to say that Avery’s harness would definitely be considered a personal disability aid,” Richter said Friday. “The denial of its use could be considered discriminatory under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“WestJet contends that it was a safety issue for her to be flying, but if the plane was going down I think the last worry on other passengers’ minds would be that the disabled girl’s seat might be dangerous. Meanwhile, the airline serves alcohol on its flights knowing full well that some passengers might require a cab when the plane has landed.”

Faith Bodnar, the executive director for the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living, echoed Richter’s feelings.

“I think that by making this decision, WestJet needs to realize that this is a human rights issue with her rights to travel and they have a duty to accommodate her,” said Bodnar. “Unless they want to recognize her rights as any Canadian citizen to travel and the duty to accommodate her, they risk having these kinds of things taken through the courts.”

WestJet officials were unavailable for comment.

Avery and her family hope that the whole ordeal will serve as a lightning rod to spark the debate for accessibility in airplanes for people with disabilities.

“Before Avery left Ottawa she briefly talked to Steven Fletcher,” Randy Ottenbreit, Avery’s father, said in reference to the quadriplegic MP of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia in Manitoba.

“One of the things he said to her was, ‘Don’t worry, you will fly again.’ ”

Because she was barred from flying on a commercial flight, Avery was flown home on an air ambulance paid for by WestJet. It arrived in the early hours of Friday morning, ending a long day of stressful waiting by Avery in Ottawa.

At home, Avery was just happy to be back in her parents care. Her ordeal was one that would be dreaded by any seasoned traveller, let alone one with cerebral palsy flying by herself for the first time.

Avery had been in Ottawa since June 27 at an Active Living Alliance conference for Youth with Disabilities. Avery had flown on an airplane before she travelled to Ottawa, but on this trip she was unaccompanied by her parents.

When Avery travels she uses a harness to hold herself up in her seat to stay comfortable because she has no control of the trunk of her body.

Avery was able to fly to Ottawa using the harness, but on the return trip she encountered an obstacle that proved incredibly troublesome.

When WestJet deemed the harness unsafe for air travel and refused to let her fly home on its commercial flight, Avery was left in Ottawa with only her travelling companion, Nicole Butlin, for company.

As a precocious young woman, Avery was very upset at being left behind and not being able to see her parents.

On Friday, at home, she was brought to tears at the mere thought of her frightening experience.

“I just wanted to come home,” she said. “In Ottawa we did rock climbing and tubing, but after that I wanted to see my parents.”


The Many Types Of Disabilities

There are many types of disabilities which include various physical and mental impairments that can hamper or reduce a person’s ability to carry out his day to day activities. These impairments can be termed as disability of the person to do his or her day to day activities.

These impairments can be termed as disability of the person to do his day to day activities as previously. “Disability” can be broken down into a number of broad sub-categories, which include the following:

a) Mobility and Physical Impairments

This category of disability includes people with varying types of physical disabilities including:

Upper limb(s) disability.
Lower limb(s) disability
Manual dexterity.
Disability in co-ordination with different organs of the body.

Disability in mobility can be either an in-born or acquired with age problem. It could also be the effect of a disease. People who have a broken bone also fall into this category of disability.

b) Spinal Cord Disability:

Spinal cord injury (SCI) can sometimes lead to lifelong disabilities. This kind of injury mostly occurs due to severe accidents. The injury can be either complete or incomplete. In an incomplete injury, the messages conveyed by the spinal cord is not completely lost. Whereas a complete injury results in a total dis-functioning of the sensory organs. In some cases spinal cord disability can be a birth defect.

c) Head Injuries – Brain Disability

A disability in the brain occurs due to a brain injury. The magnitude of the brain injury can range from mild, moderate and severe. There are two types of brain injuries:

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

ABI is not a hereditary type defect but is the degeneration that occurs after birth.

The causes of such cases of injury are many and are mainly because of external forces applied to the body parts. TBI results in emotional dysfunctioning and behavioral disturbance.

d) Vision Disibility

There are hundreds of thousands of people that are experiencing minor to various serious vision disability or impairments. These injuries can also result into some serious problems or diseases like blindness and ocular trauma, to name a few. Some of the common vision impairment includes scratched cornea, scratches on the sclera, diabetes related eye conditions, dry eyes and corneal graft.

e) Hearing Disability

Hearing disabilities includes people that are completely or partially deaf, (Deaf is the politically correct term for a person with hearing impairment).

People who are partially deaf can often use hearing aids to assist their hearing. Deafness can be evident at birth or occur later in life from several biologic causes, for example Meningitis can damage the auditory nerve or the cochlea.

Deaf people use sign language as a means of communication. Hundreds of sign languages are in use around the world. In linguistic terms, sign languages are as rich and complex as any oral language, despite the common misconception that they are not “real languages”.

f) Cognitive or Learning Disabilites

Cognitive Disabilities are kind of impairment present in people who have dyslexia and various other learning difficulties and includes speech disorders.

f) Psychological Disorders

Affective Disorders: Disorders of mood or feeling states either short or long term. Mental Health Impairment is the term used to describe people who have experienced psychiatric problems or illness such as:
Personality Disorders – Defined as deeply inadequate patterns of behavior and thought of sufficient severity to cause significant impairment to day-to-day activities.
Schizophrenia: A mental disorder characterized by disturbances of thinking, mood, and behavior.

h) Invisible Disabilities

Invisible Disabilities are disabilities that are not immediately apparent to others.

The Many Different Definitions Of The Term Disability

Lets take a look at some definitions of the word “Disability” as defined by various organisations around the world.

Definition of “disability” under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The DDA sets out the circumstances under which a person is ‘disabled’. A person is considered to be disabled if:

* they have a mental or physical impairment
* the impairment has an adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities
* the adverse effect is substantial and long-term (meaning it has lasted for 12 months, or is likely to last for more     than 12 months or for the rest of the person’s life).

In addition there are also some special provisions under the Act that cover, for example, progressive conditions and past disabilities. In defining ‘normal day-to-day activities’ the DDA states that at least one of the following areas must be badly affected:

* mobility
* manual dexterity
* physical coordination
* continence
* ability to lift, carry or move everyday objects
* speech, hearing or eyesight
* memory or ability to concentrate, learn or understand
* understanding of the risk of physical danger.

ADA Definition of “disability”

The ADA has a three-part definition of “disability.” This definition, based on the definition under the Rehabilitation Act, reflects the specific types of discrimination experienced by people with disabilities. Accordingly, it is not the same as the definition of disability in other laws, such as state workers’ compensation laws or other federal or state laws that provide benefits for people with disabilities and disabled veterans.

Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who:

1. has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities

2. has a record of such an impairment

3. is regarded as having such an impairment.

The World Health Organization defines Disability as follows:

“Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

Three dimensions of disability are recognised in the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH)

A new version of the ICIDH is now being drafted, to embrace developments in the field since 1980, and criticism of the first ICIDH. A range of countries, including Australia, is involved in the work with the World Health Organization, as well as organisations representing people with a disability. One of the major developments is the more specific recognition of the social construction of the third dimension of disability. It is being proposed that this third dimension be renamed ‘participation’, and that its definition recognise the critical role played by environmental or contextual factors in restricting full participation.

Definitions of the ICIDH 1980

The International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH), provides a conceptual framework for disability which is described in three dimensions-impairment, disability and handicap:

Impairment: In the context of health experience an impairment is any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function. Impairment isconsidered to occur at the level of organ or system function. Disability is concerned with functional performance or activity, affecting the whole person.

Disability: In the context of health experience a disability is any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.

Handicap: In the context of health experience a handicap is a disadvantage for a given individual, resulting from an impairment or a disability, that limits or prevents the fulfillment of a role that is normal (depending on age, sex, and social and cultural factors) for that individual.

The third dimension: ‘handicap’-focuses on the person as a social being and reflects the interaction with and adaptation to the person’s surroundings. The classification system for handicap is not hierarchical, but is constructed of a group of dimensions, with each dimension having an associated scaling factor to indicate impact on the individual’s life.

Definitions of the new draft ICIDH

In the context of health condition:

Impairment: is a loss or abnormality in body structure or of a physiological or psychological function.

Activity: is the nature and extent of functioning at the level of the person. Activities may be limited in nature, duration and quality.

Participation: is the nature and extent of a person’s involvement in life situations in relationship to impairments, activities, health conditions and contextual factors. Participation may be restricted in nature, duration and quality. Participation is considered within seven broad domains: personal maintenance; mobility; exchange of information; social relationships; education, work, leisure and spirituality; economic life; and civic and community life.

Context: includes the features, aspects, attributes of, or objects, structures, human-made organisations, service provision, and agencies in, the physical, social and attitudinal environment in which people live and conduct their lives.

Definition of disability discrimination

Disability discrimination is the act of treating someone with a disability less favorably than someone without a disability.

People With Disabilities Want To Live Life

People with disabilities live in a world designed primarily for the able-bodied. People with disabilities want to live life no differently than anyone else. They want to be able to go shopping, go to the movies, go out to eat, work, and enjoy life, fully realizing that must be done within the boundaries of their limitations.

Adapt and adjust becomes the mantra of a person living with a disability. People with disabilities may be forced to change careers or not work at all. They may be forced to relinquish some of their independence.

There are experiences some able-bodied people may take for granted which people with disabilities must forgo. Disabled people may miss out on:

  • the joy of rough-housing with children
  • playing competitive sports
  • traveling
  • long road-trips

What can be more frustrating than harsh realities are subtle realities for people with disabilities. Living with disability is difficult but can sting even more when people encountered are:

  • impatient
  • rude
  • insensitive
  • inconsiderate
  • pessimistic
  • unhelpful

Impatient people try to rush people with disabilities through life.

Inconsiderate people can be found using handicapped bathroom stalls and handicapped parking spots, facilities specifically designated for people with disabilities. Inconsiderate people do not hold doors open, a simple action that can make things much easier for a disabled person.

Rude and insensitive people are often found staring at people with disabilities. They seem to not like what they see, or imagine themselves in the role of the disabled person. It creates an uncomfortable situation unless you ignore the person who is staring.

Demanding people and those who lack understanding about the realities of your disability can also be provoking.

Pessimistic people can annoy and be hurtful. Pessimistic people focus on the negative aspects of having a disability instead of trying to build up, encourage, and praise the accomplishments of people with disabilities. Pessimistic or negative people don’t want to learn about the realities of living with disability. They have preconceived ideas and often treat physically disabled people as if they are faking or lazy. Even worse, negative people sometimes treat physically disabled people as if they have no abilities at all.

Unhelpful people are yet another category of people who can annoy and frustrate disabled people. For able-bodied people, most tasks are effortless. The same task for a disabled person is perhaps an impossibility. Changing lightbulbs or air conditioner filters, scrubbing showers, getting a large load of groceries – it’s just part of daily living.

What you can control, whether you are able-bodied or disabled, is yourself. All humans face challenges, it’s just that people with disabilities face different challenges. You will not rid the world of impatient, rude, insensitive people, but you can control how you react to them.

  • Impatient people cause you to be more patient.
  • Insensitive people cause you to be more sensitive.
  • Negative people cause you to react with positivity.

For each negative person you encounter, you have many more positive encounters. Surround yourself with people, things, and experiences which make you feel good and do good.

After all, just because you have a disability does not mean you deserve any less!

Getting To Know A Disabled Person

When you first meet someone who is blind, deaf, or in a wheelchair, what is your initial reaction? Curiosity? Sympathy? Awkwardness? If you experience any of these emotions, you are not alone. Chances are you don’t regularly associate with someone who is disabled, so these feelings are quite common.

My best friend whom i have known for many many years has been blind since birth, I have watched her encounter a wide range of reactions, from curious stares when she walked down the street with a cane or holding someone’s arm, to amazement at being able to feed and dress herself. Most people don’t intend to be rude or insensitive, but just aren’t sure what to expect. Here are four points to keep in mind if you should happen to meet a disabled person.

1. Disabled people can lead active lives. With few exceptions, a disability does not prevent someone from working, raising a family, or taking part in social activities. Many sports and recreation programs have been adapted to accommodate a person with a disability, including baseball, golf, water skiing, biking, and swimming. Instead of concentrating on the disability, look at the person the same way you would any other acquaintance.

2. It’s all right to ask questions. Many people are afraid of offending someone by asking about their disability. When meeting anyone for the first time, it’s natural to be curious about who they are, where they’re from, and what they do for a living.

The same is true for a disabled person. Asking questions is usually acceptable, as long as you use common sense. Don’t, for example, ask a blind person how he/she feeds and bathes himself/herself. Instead, find out what equipment or techniques he uses in his/her job and at home, how he/she gets around town, how does Braille work, etc.

3. Offer assistance when necessary. You see a woman in a wheelchair having trouble entering a building or negotiating steps. You’d like to help, but don’t want to embarrass her. What should you do?

It’s usually appropriate to lend a hand if someone is having obvious difficulty, but keep in mind that not everyone will be willing to accept your help. It’s not much different than pulling over and offering assistance to a motorist with a flat tire. Unless the woman in the wheelchair is in danger, it isn’t necessary to press the issue if they refuse your help. You did your part.

4. Remember that we all have obstacles to overcome. No matter who we are, each of us has a weakness or challenge to face. How do you feel when you are treated differently for being bald, short, or heavyset? Like you, a disabled person would much rather be accepted for who they are, rather than be pitied or shunned because of a disability.

Meeting someone with a disability doesn’t have to be an intimidating experience. Asking questions, offering assistance, and putting yourself in their shoes can go a long way toward recognizing them as people with normal thoughts and feelings who just happen to have a disability. Who knows? You might make some new friends in the process. I know I have…

Freedom Of Expression For Individuals With Disabilities

For many years now it has been the mission of Disability Advocates to protect and advance the rights of adults and children who have disabilities so that they can freely exercise their own life choices, enforce their rights, and fully participate in their community life.

Why is it that, just because some people see someone with a disability they think that they must not know what is best for them and they need someone to look out for them because they don’t really know what they want and what they really need? We forget that people are people and we all have wants, needs and dreams not matter if we have a disability or not. Having a disability does not take away from an individual being able to dream and feel. Sit back and look around you, if you had someone on an hourly basis telling you when you had to bath, go to the bathroom, when you had to sit, stand, eat, watch television, read a book etc, how would you feel? If someone took away your ability to dream, voice what you wanted to do that you haven’t yet, how would you feel? Then if you found some way to finally get across to someone what you wanted to do, what if they looked at you like you were crazy and said “you can’t do that, what if you get hurt, I’m just looking out for your best interests, really”, how bad would that break your spirits? There are some individuals with serious disability’s that are unable to make their own decisions and they do need someone to help make their decisions for them and I agree with that, but at what point does it change from looking out for that individuals best interests into living their life for them and no longer allowing them the right to an opinion on their own life.

Respect For Those With Disabilities

Henry (2007) explains; one reason that some people are uncomfortable around people with disabilities is that they’re afraid that they will “say the wrong thing”. However, that’s not a big deal to most people with disabilities. What’s important is that you respect the person and see them beyond their disability (Henry, 2007, p. 2). Henry (2007) also gives an example of the un-comfortableness that one can feel when trying to find the right words to say; In the movie “I am Sam”, the main character, Sam, is an adult with a developmental disability. An initially insensitive attorney says to Sam: “I need that list of names from you—people who can testify that you’re a good father despite your handicap.” “I didn’t mean your handicap, I meant your disability.” “The fact that you’re retarded.” “That’s not the right word.” “I don’t know what to call you!” To which he replies: “Sam, You can call me Sam” (Henry, 2007, pp. 3-4).

Henry (2007) states that; one basic question many people have is: “What is appropriate terminology”, for example, disability, impairment, or handicap? When you’re working with someone, you can ask what terminology he or she prefers. When you’re speaking in public or writing, you’ll need to do a little research to ensure that you use widely-accepted terminology and avoid potentially offensive terminology (Henry, 2007, p. 4). According to Henry (2007); the most important thing to know when interacting with people with disabilities is that they are people. And just like all people, they are very different and unique, including being different in how they are with disability issues (Henry, 2007, p. 4). Some people prefer different terms, some get very upset about terminology, and some don’t care. Some people get very upset about accessibility barriers and lash out at those responsible; some are very patient with accessibility barriers and are appreciative and supportive of people and organizations that are trying to fix barriers. Some people really appreciate the opportunity to talk about their disability and educate people about accessibility issues, and others don’t like to talk about it at all. After you know someone a little, you might ask, “I’m curious about your using a wheelchair. Are you comfortable talking about it, or would you prefer not to?” (Henry, 2007, p. 4).

Societies Responsibility To Individuals With Disabilities

Fabila de Zaldo (1999) states that; The World Health Organization calculated that in 1990 there were 500 million people with disabilities in the world, and that by the year 2000 the number would reach 600 million. According to these figures, 10 percent of the total world population suffers from some type of physical, mental, or sensory disability. This is a serious problem, especially in developing countries where the greatest numbers of individuals with disabilities are reported to live (Fabila de Zaldo, 1999, p. 2).

Fabila de Zaldo (1999) explains; the seriousness of the problem, however, is even more critical than numbers alone reflect. The majority of these people live in deplorable conditions, struggling against physical, cultural, familial, or social obstacles that prevent them from full social integration. There are millions of children, young people, adults, and elderly people in the world who, with their families, live in marginal conditions and are excluded and deprived of their rights. This problem is not limited to poor countries. Social injustice and the violation of human rights of disabled people are found both in developing and in developed nations alike. All of the above lead us to analyze, reflect, dream, and decide to fight against these circumstances with a clear vision of what we want to accomplish for our children, brothers, friends, or students. After all, this is a human rights issue (Fabila de Zaldo, 1999, pp. 2-5). Fabila de Zaldo (1999) also explains that; Regardless of age, any person with disabilities affects his/her family. By the year 2000, more than 2.4 billion inhabitants of the world will be confronted with this problem unless we develop strategies to prevent some disabilities and minimize discriminatory conditions, abuses, social injustice, and the marginalization suffered by people with disabilities. Support systems must be created within societies to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families. Finding global solutions to this problem must be viewed as a priority, as well as individual solutions in the different countries and even in different regions of the same country (Fabila de Zaldo, 1999, pp. 5-6).

Rebick (2005) explains; In the case of disabled people, there is a wide range of social problems associated with disadvantaged conditions. Disabled individuals are a vulnerable group that often suffers social injustice, marginality, and poverty and affects millions of people and their families. For this reason society must respond appropriately and assume responsibility for the material and the spiritual needs of individuals, their families, and their communities. Social development and justice that promotes a better quality of life for all can only be achieved within a frame of peace and security, respecting human rights and fundamental liberties within a realm of human interdependence that involves all members of society (Rebick, 2005, pp. 212-218).