It is Thursday, again. Time for a MAD post. We all want respect. To get it, we need to give it. In order to give it, we have to refrain from judging based on our own misconceptions. Just because you cannot see it, does not mean it is not there. Just because you can see it, does not mean it is what you think.
If I asked you what disabled meant, what would you answer? Before you get self-conscious, let’s look at what the children I asked said. Bear in mind, they range in age from seven to sixteen.
- Someone who cannot walk.
- Someone who had their arms and legs cut off.
- Someone who has to have a wheelchair.
- People who are not able to do a lot of things.
- People who can’t talk.
- People who are mental. They say they can do things, but they can’t.
It is easy to see what children see as disabled: Disabilities they can see and hear.
More than 54 million people aged five and older have a disability which does not require institutionalization. They live their lives the same way others do with the major exception they do it under debilitating circumstances.
More than 25 million disabled people are of employable age. More than 78% of them want to work. Only 33% of the ones who want to work have jobs.
Over 15% of the cars parked in handicapped parking spaces are parked illegally.
The majority of disabilities are caused by accidents, illnesses or late-emerging effects of genetics. A small minority is caused by congenital disorders (birth defects). Some of the most severe disabilities cannot be detected by the naked eye.
- Hearing impairment
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Many, many, many others
Most disabled people want to be totally integrated with society. They want to be included in entertainment venues and social events. They want to work and be self-sufficient. They want to be just like you.
People never plan on becoming disabled, but everyday, it happens. One day, you could be disabled.
Make a Difference
Do you need some ideas on how you can make a difference to someone who is disabled?
Be respectful of others whether you can perceive a disability or not.
Do not park in a space designated for the handicapped. They are a necessity for the ones who cannot travel long distances.
Do not illegally use handicapped license plates or placards you may possess because you borrowed, bought or inherited a vehicle from a handicapped person. It is against the law in every state for a non-handicapped person to park in a handicapped space unless they are transporting the handicapped person to whom the placard or license plate is issued.
Even if the sign does not say how much, there is a minimum fine for all violations of handicapped parking.
Pick Another Stall
Do not use a handicapped restroom stall unless you are handicapped. A disabled person’s need to use the restroom is just as urgent as yours. In most cases, it takes them longer to prepare to use the designated facilities.
When you see a handicapped license plate on a vehicle, show some respect. Slow down to allow the driver ample space to operate. Do not tailgate. Do not honk to have the driver get out of your way. Road rage is not polite. Ever.
Open a door for someone.
Push a wheelchair up or down an incline.
Offer to carry groceries or parcels.
Offer your arm in inclement weather or on uneven walkways.
Ask others to step aside.
Offer to hold a child’s hand while mother/father is paying or loading a car.
Offer to run errands for a disabled neighbor while you are out doing your own.
Do not stare. Show you have manners.
Do not condescend. Just because someone is physically challenged does not mean they do not understand.
Do not assume. Just because you cannot see what is wrong with someone does not mean what they are doing is not causing pain…physical or emotional.
Be patient. You are not going to expire in the additional minute it takes a disabled person to get out of your way. If you think you will, offer to help. It will occupy your time, so you will not think it was wasted.
Teach your children to respect the disabled. Teach them to be helpful. Teach them by example with an explanation.
Take a few minutes to think about how you would want someone to treat you if you were the one with the disability. Now, think about how you would feel if it was a disability no one could see. Time for MAD. You can Make A Difference.
Can you name a disability which is not discernible to the naked eye? How do you help the handicapped? Do you know someone who is disabled? (Tell me why you think the last one is a trick question.)
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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