The Disability In All Of Us

AbilityVoice: a blog about mobility topics

A friend and fellow blogger for BraunAbility, Karen, once told me,

"Disability should be as commonplace as a person who wears glasses."

This quote caught me off guard, and it took me a moment to understand what she meant by it. Disability should be commonplace? Truly a radical idea that many don't want to hear. My first impression led me down a path thinking that she meant more people with disabilities should be out and about, but I later saw that this is not the case.

When I see someone who wears glasses, I think of a young me at the age of 6 who begged his mother for a pair of glasses, even when I didn't need them. I would see other kids wearing them and wanted to look as cool as they did. I never got those glasses (I inherited my father's 20/20 vision) and I was devastated. Cute anecdote aside, even as a child, I looked at people with vision problems and wanted glasses, and never thought anything was wrong or out of place.

A friend's father had back surgery while I was a teenager, and was in a wheelchair for a few months as he recovered. I would look at the wheelchair and thought it could be fun to race around in, but I still made sure to give him space and distance. I didn't go home and plead for a wheelchair (I may not have matured much between the ages of 6 and 13), but I still knew the wheelchair was different, out of place. Why? What makes it so different from glasses?

Disability in today's world is far-reaching. Just this spring, the National Organization on Disability gathered some surprising statistics.

  • There are approximately 600 million men, women and children with disabilities in the world.

  • The estimated number of people who require rehabilitation services at any point in time is 1.5% of the population, I.e. about 90 million people.

  • Approximately 85% of people with disabilities are in developing countries, and are doubly disadvantaged by poverty and disability.

  • Counting family members who also are directly affected, a fifth of the world's population lives with disability on a daily basis.

There is no difference between glasses, a cane, a wheelchair, or crutches. Each is a tool that creates a level of equality for standards of living. Why do we turn that tool of healing and equality into a reason to distance ourselves?

I have issues in my knee that may leave me needing surgery in the future. When I am getting around in crutches afterwards, will people see me as they do someone with glasses, or will they see me differently?


Micah Christensen is a freelance writer for BraunAbility and loves to share the stories of our customers and dealers. Follow BraunAbility on Twitter! @BraunAbility