The Importance of Knowing Other Disabled People
As many of us know, the world has some pretty strange perceptions of disabled people. We merely leave our homes and go out into the world and we find people who want to treat us differently or be unhelpful. So, I wanted to talk to you about the importance of knowing other people with disabilities.
I am lucky in the sense that I’ve always known disabled people. I’ve spent my whole education so far knowing at least some disabled people. I think I’ve been lucky in the sense that while there haven’t always necessarily been other blind people around, there have always been other people who are different in some way.
I have found that it is easier to make friends with people with some sort of disability or other issue, than it is someone without that. I think this is because if you’ve been through something yourself, you are more likely to be open-minded about spending time with someone else who is different too, as opposed to rejecting them solely on the basis of that difference as many non-disabled people do.
I also think there’s a lot to be gained from sharing ideas, particularly if you’ve the same disability. I have quite a few blind acquaintances who I know if I ever have an issue with something related to blindness that I’m not sure how to solve, I can contact them and they will try to help me. Similarly, I know if they ever have any issue related to blindness that they’re unable to solve, they can get in touch with me and I will do everything in my power to help them. I think that’s especially important, when it’s so hard to find disability specific information, for very specific issues when searching online.
But it’s not just about the practicalities of being able to ask each other for help. People can try very hard to empathise with you, but the saying “you can never truly understand something unless you’ve experienced it”, is very true. There are conversations you just can’t have with a non-disabled person, because they just don’t get it. They don’t know what it’s like to go out and have people assuming you can’t do certain things all the time, they don’t know what it’s like to be limited in what you do all the time because of a condition you can’t change and they don’t know what it’s like to have to put in a great deal more work than everyone else does into everything to compensate for your disability, because they don’t have experience of those things. They can try to understand and maybe even become quite good at being emphatic, but they will never truly understand.
So, if you’re thinking, how can I meet some other disabled people, here are some suggestions:
1. Many charities run events. For example, The Aidis Trust organises gaming events for disabled people through the Everyone Can Game Project. If you do some researching, you will probably find local charities specific to your disability that will run events. They may be very few and far between and they may not be about things you are interested in, but it may be worth going to a few of them, just to meet people and possibly find out about events that might be more interesting, that aren’t advertised as widely. It was through going to a random event that wasn’t overall actually very useful, that I found out about The Aidis Trust and was able to get involved in helping with the blog. The only useful thing I gained out of the event was meeting Richard from The Aidis Trust, but if I hadn’t gone, I would not be doing this now and I probably wouldn’t have learnt some of the things I’ve learnt now such as how to use WordPress. I don’t like the thought of going to events that seem irrelevant as much as anyone else does, but if you genuinely don’t know anyone with a disability like yours or you need to find out about something that the event in question covers, it may be worth considering going.
2. Alternatively, there are opportunities online to connect with other disabled people, such as through the social media pages of disability related organisations. Some organisations have specific social forums.
3. Occasionally, your local authority might run events, if they’re trying to gather feedback from disabled people. Many of us know from experience, that they rarely listen, but actually showing up could at the least mean you meet some like-minded people.
4. Sometimes you meet other disabled people just through going to general events that are not necessarily for disabled people. After all, we are all people, despite our disabilities.
If you’ve any recommendations of good places to meet disabled people or have any other thoughts on the topic, please post them in the comments below.
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