Helen Jones Click here for Helen’s own story.
According to a June 2011 world report on Disabledpersons.com, previous figures on the prevalence of disability have been vastly underestimated. Currently, some report that as many as one billion people experience a “disabling condition” worldwide. However, to a large extent, it depends on how disability is defined. In general, a disability can be described as a functional limitation which affects one or more of our major activities of daily living (ADL’s) from a medical standpoint, such as walking, learning/comprehension, dressing, bathing, eating, communicating, transferring from one place to another (i.e. bed to chair) etc.
As a person ages, one’s body and skill levels begin to deteriorate if continued activity is not fostered, and in that sense, we all will be “disabled.” In addition, certain countries are more proactive regarding their inclusion or exclusion of disabling conditions for entitlement programs.
For this writer, her disability isn’t the “elephant in the room.” She tries her best to keep it at the “mouse in the room” level. Actually, for Ladyjustice, it is more a state of mind. Maybe she can’t ride a unicycle or go surfing, but she can do a heck of a lot!
Tips for a Healthier, More Manageable Disability
The following information can be considered “little pearl’s of wisdom” applicable to most any disability, realized by much trial and error… and “the glass is at least half full “mentality.
1. Don’t let your disability define you! You are much more than your vision loss, physical, learning disability etc. This is a biggie! Ladyjustice has encountered “disabled people” for over 50 years at all points on the spectrum. Those who have other interests and choose to deal with whatever it is, develop compensations for their challenges, tend to fair much better on the self adjustment scale.
For those who “wear their disability as a badge,” filled with anger as if to say, “Look at me”… whether it is for entitlement purposes or “just to get attention,” are the saddest of all examples! Please don’t lump Ladyjustice in with “those pity party people.” Your disability is just one component of your total make up… just as your nationality, sexual orientation, cultural upbringing etc., etc. If you are stuck in the rut of defining yourself as “disabled first and foremost”… get out of it by surrounding yourself with non-disabled persons (except when specialized support is needed).
2. If your disability is progressive, be ready for changes and adjust with it along the way, rather than fight it. Denial can be dangerous…
Although it may be difficult to re-adjust with each change, expecting change can be built into your preparation. With the change, a sense of loss is normal, as is grieving. Allow yourself to experience the grief. But not allowing the grief to overtake your life completely is key! Seeking and joining support groups and developing new interests can assist you in improving the quality of your life and act as distractions from the progression on your disability.
3. Down the line, share the benefit of your experience. Doing so can be a great healer for you and a motivator for others! Ladyjustice has relied heavily on this advice and made it work!
4. Don’t let your specific limitations impede what you really enjoy. For example, if you experience vision loss and love to read, try the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped with their latest digital books on tape. If your physical disability prevents you from hiking, you might locate a nature walking group with accessible trails. [Example- the Massachusetts Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary is a universally accessible sensory trail. This award winning quarter mile trail is designated foe access by wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, and includes 12 interpretive stops with content that is accessible via cell phone, text or Braille. Go to www.massaudobon.org.]
5. Take advantage of support groups, the opportunity to form new friendships, locating civic organizations, educational resources and adaptive aids. Life is too short…or too long without others to care about, so join! Life can be a banquet to “stuff yourself” with the kind of special interest knowledge you love. The easiest tasks for others may be the hardest for those of us with disabilities.
[Ladyjustice examples- Hardest- buttoning, putting on earrings, socks or pantyhose… especially when you’re in a rush to get to work and should have left ten minutes ago! Ha!]
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it! Others will respect you… Remember, the onus is on you as the disabled person, as you know your needs best. Don’t assume that the general public knows what to do for you. Some good samaritans will offer assistance, but don’t expect it. A pet peeve of this writer is when a person with a disability gets highly indignant when assistance isn’t offered… or is offered too frequently. [LJ’s philosophy – It’s always better to politely decline and thank them rather than be angry.]
7. If there is no help available (as frequently happens,) figure out a way to do it yourself! However, if “it” presents a danger, skip it altogether! This is also very important! This is an opportunity to get creative, particularly if the person with a disability lives alone. Had Ladyjustice waited for help over all of these years, she would virtually be sitting in a chair somewhere staring off into space without the benefit of her many accomplishments. If you give up at the first sign of a challenge, you are doomed to misery in the humble opinion of this writer!
8. Know your limits and stick to them. (Although they may change). This tip is significant! To know your limits is to know yourself. Be honest, be safe and don’t “show off for others” just to be part of your peer group. You will avoid injury, and will perhaps get to your destination a bit later…but who cares? Admittedly, LJ has difficulty with this one at times, as she believes she is Superwoman all the time! Such a fantasy! However, she is making a little progress. For instance, she no longer uses the escalator in the mall as it is too risky with the timing and balance thing. [Remember the phrase “step on the crack and break your father’s back? Well, substitute head injury in there…]
9. Don’t be complacent; “Poor me attitude” Self-advocate; If you don’t know how, learn… Two words says it all- Gabrielle Giffords!
10. If you are accustomed to being a very independent person, relish those times when you can appropriately be waited on… As disabled people, we are so often projecting our independence that we may forget that we deserve to be pampered occasionally, just like anyone else! Newsflash! There is a difference between occasional pampering (such as when you are on vacation) and having everything done for you “because you have a disability.” LadyJustice works so hard all the time that she has learned to accept what little pampering comes her way…as in a recent Carnival Cruise.
Thanks for listening!