Everybody’s fighting some kind of stereotype, and PwDs are no exception. The difference is that barriers PwDs face begin with people’s attitudes — attitudes often rooted in misinformation and misunderstandings about what it’s like to live with a disability.
Myth 1: People with disabilities are brave and courageous.
Fact: Adjusting to a disability requires adapting to a lifestyle, not bravery and courage.
Myth 2: All persons who use wheelchairs are chronically ill or sickly.
Fact: The association between wheelchair use and illness may have evolved through hospitals using wheelchairs to transport sick people. A person may use a wheelchair for a variety of reasons, none of which may have anything to do with lingering illness.
Myth 3: Wheelchair use is confining; people who use wheelchairs are “wheelchair-bound.”
Fact: A wheelchair, like a bicycle or a vehicle, is a personal assistive device that enables someone to get around.
Myth 4: All persons with hearing disabilities can read lips.
Fact: Lip-reading skills vary among people who use them and in some circumstances are never entirely reliable.
Myth 5: People who are blind acquire a “sixth sense.”
Fact: Although most people who are blind develop their remaining senses more fully, they do not have a “sixth sense.”
Myth 6: People with disabilities are more comfortable with “their own kind.”
Fact: In the past, grouping PwDs in separate schools and institutions reinforced this misconception. Today, many people with disabilities take advantage of new opportunities to join mainstream society.
Myth 7: Non-disabled people are obligated to “take care of” people with disabilities.
Fact: Anyone may offer assistance, but most PwDs prefer to be responsible for themselves.
Myth 8: Curious children should never ask people about their disabilities.
Fact: Many children have a natural, uninhibited curiosity and may ask questions that some adults consider embarrassing. But scolding curious children may make them think having a disability is “wrong” or “bad.” Most PwDs won’t mind answering a child’s question.
Myth 9: The lives of people with disabilities are totally different than the lives of people without disabilities.
Fact: PwDs go to school, get married, work, have families, do laundry, grocery shop, laugh, cry, pay taxes, get angry, have prejudices, vote, plan and dream like everyone else.
Myth 10: It is all right for people without disabilities to park in accessible parking spaces, if only for a few minutes.
Fact: Because accessible parking spaces are designed and situated to meet the needs of PwDs, these spaces should only be used by people who need them.
Myth 11: Most people with disabilities cannot have sexual relationships.
Fact: Anyone can have a sexual relationship by adapting the sexual activity. PwDs can have children naturally or through adoption. PwDs, like other people, are sexual beings.
Myth 12: People with disabilities always need help.
Fact: Many PwDs are independent and capable of giving help. If you would like to help someone with a disability, ask if he or she needs it before you act.
Myth 13: There is nothing one person can do to help eliminate the barriers confronting people with disabilities.
Fact: Everyone can contribute to change. You can help remove barriers by:
- Understanding the need for accessible parking and leaving it for those who need it
- Encouraging participation of PwDs in community activities by using accessible meeting and event sites
- Understanding children’s curiosity about disabilities and people who have them
- Advocating a barrier-free environment
- Speaking up when negative words or phrases are used about disability
- Writing producers and editors a note of support when they portray someone with a disability as a “regular person” in the media
- Accepting PwDs as individuals capable of the same needs and feelings as yourself, and hiring qualified PwDs whenever possible