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Managing People with Disability

Different types of disabilities

There are many different types of disabilities which can affect individuals in different ways. They can be divided into four categories which are:

  1. Intellectual – means difficulty in communicating, learning, and retaining information. They include those with Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and developmental delays. This disability may be caused by genetic conditions, childhood diseases, use of alcohol or drugs by the pregnant mother, poverty, and illness affecting the mother during pregnancy.
  2. Physical – may affect one’s physical capacity and/or mobility. They include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, brain or spinal cord injury, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Fibromyalgia. These disabilities may be either temporary or permanent. Some may involve extreme, less, or no pain at all.
  3. Sensory – affects one or more senses; sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste or spatial awareness. They include autism, blindness, and hearing loss. Common causes of vision loss include cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and retinitis pigmentosa.
  4. Mental – a mental illness affects a person’s thinking, emotional state and behaviour. They include bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders (bulimia and anorexia), anxiety (phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder), and organic brain disorder (ie, Alzheimer’s, Stroke, Dementia). Among all, bipolar is the most difficult disorder to treat and schizophrenia is the most serious mental illness.

How to emotionally cope with having disabilities

Adjusting to life with a disability can be a difficult transition. We all tend to take our health for granted until its gone. There are many things you can do to improve your independence, senses, and outlook. No matter what type of disability you are faced with, it is entirely possible to overcome the challenges you face and enjoy the life! Most of us expect to live long in healthy lives. When you are hit by an injury or illness which causes disability, it can trigger a range of unsettling emotions and fears. You may wonder how you will be able to work, keep up relationships, and be happy again. There are many ways to accept your circumstances such as:

  • Organize yourself properly – keeping your room, body, and lifestyle clean and organized can really lower your stress levels and make you more confident.
  • Make your health a top priority – in order to feel your best, it is important to support and strengthen your health with regular exercise, healthy diet, plenty of rest or sleep, and effective stress management.
  • Let yourself grieve – before you can accept your disability, you first need to grieve. It is a normal feeling or reaction to grieving the life you’ve lost, but it is not healthy to continue looking back and wishing for a return. It is important to let go of the past and accept where you are.
  • Accept your disability – is the most difficult part as it can be very discouraging. If your disability can be changed with physical therapy and treatment, seize the day and fight it. Do not be embarrassed to use a wheelchair, walking aids, or service dog for your life.
  • Seek assistance from community especially those who have got the same condition as you – seek support groups with people who face the same challenges as you. They understand and accept the grief that comes with sudden disability and social pressure.
  • Get a hobby – find something that you like to do like sewing, painting, drawing, writing, or doing art craft. Some may even lead to successful self-employment or new job skills and you also can make money from that. You will meet other people who get into them and have something more interesting to talk about than your disability.
  • Remember that money is not the only measure of success in life

How to interact with people who have disabilities

If your families or colleagues’ disability is not clear to you, ask how it affects their daily routine and if they need adjustments so that they can work to the best of their ability. DO NOT ask them how they got the disability. Socializing with people with disabilities should be no different from any other socialization. However, if you are not familiar with these disabilities, you might fear either saying something improper or offensive or doing something wrong by offering assistance.

Below are some useful tips on how to interact with disabled people:

#1 Speaking to someone with a disability

  1. Be respectful – someone with disability should be afforded the same amount of respect as anyone else
  2. Never talk down – use a regular speaking voice and vocabulary, and talk to them just like you are talking with normal people.
  • Do not use labels or offensive terms – identifying someone by their disability or assigning a label that is offensive (ie midget, handicapped, spastic, retard) is both hurtful and disrespectful. Always be careful about what you are saying and censoring your language if necessary.
  1. Try to speak directly with them – it is frustrating for someone with a disability to have to deal with people who are never talking directly to them. If you are speaking with someone who is deaf and has a sign language interpreter, you should still always speak directly or in front of them.
  2. Be patient all the time and ask only necessary questions – always let them speak and work at their own pace without you egging them to talk, think, or move faster. If you do not understand, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  3. Try to recognize that some disabilities are not visible

#2 Interacting appropriately

  1. Put yourself in their shoes – it may be easier to understand how to interact with people who have disabilities if you imagine you have the disabilities too. Think about how you would want other people to talk  and  treat you
  2. Offer genuine help – some people are hesitant to offer help to someone with a disability for fear of offending them. If you are not sure of a specific way to help, you can ask, “Is there anything that I can do to help you right now?”
  3. Do not play with service dogs – do not give a service dog food or treats without asking permission.
  4. Avoid playing with someone’s wheelchair or walking device – do not ask to play with someone’s wheelchair as it is a childish question and may cause the person to feel uncomfortable
  5. Acknowledge that most disabled peoples have adapted – some disabilities present from birth and some of them may develop later in life due to accident or illness. No matter how the disability developed, most people learn how to adapt and take care of themselves independently. As a result, it can be annoying to assume that they cannot do many things and cannot survive by themselves!
  6. Avoid getting in their way – move to the side if you see someone attempting to navigate in a wheelchair. Move your feet away from someone who is using a walker. However, if someone asks for your assistance, be prepared to lend your hands.

Sources:

  • Changing paces: https://changingpaces.com
  • House with no steps: https://www.hwns.com.au
  • Wiki How: https://www.wikihow.com
  • Help Guide: https://www.helpguide.org
  • Family Education: https://www.familyeducation.com