Don’t tell me the only disability in life is a bad attitude
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude” has got to be one of the absolute worst phrases I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s so ridiculous that my first reaction is to just laugh at it, which I have… many times. When I’m not making wheelchair jokes with my friends, I see it for what it is.
An obnoxiously common example of disability erasure.
By definition, a disability is something that limits someone in one or more major life activity. Clearly, there’s a big difference between being unable to walk and having a negative attitude. Like Stella Young said, ‘no amount of smiling at a flight of stairs ever turned it into a ramp’.
There’s a lot that I can’t do. The most obvious being that I can’t walk, which everyone knows by now. But I also can’t lift heavy objects, open doors, cook a meal, and the list goes on and on. None of that is inherently good or bad – it’s just a fact. Trying to convince a disabled person that they’re not actually disabled is not only insulting, but it’s a comical waste of time.
As an adult, it’s easy to joke about it but as a kid, it’s the kind of thing you internalize. Disabled kids should be taught to embrace their bodies and their abilities, whatever they may or may not be. Teaching them phrases like ‘the only disability is a bad attitude’ simultaneously strips them of part of their identity and instills a sense of shame when they’re unable to do the same things their abled peers can.
There’s this weird belief that if you can’t do something you’re just not trying hard enough. You haven’t found the right way yet, keep going, don’t give up. People will encourage you to damn near kill yourself trying before letting someone else do something for you. That’s obviously a really toxic attitude to have. A lot of people try to catch us in a lie like we’re ‘faking’ our disabilities because of that attitude.
In high school, I was accused of asking for more than I needed and there were times when an adult would make me prove I couldn’t do something before they’d do it for me. I didn’t get this as often as some people do because Muscular Dystrophy is a pretty noticeable disease. My wonky body isn’t really something anyone can fake, not that there’s a ton of people trying to fake muscle wasting diseases anyway. I don’t know where that conspiracy theory started, but it’s absurd.
People with invisible disabilities are CONSTANTLY harassed, shamed, attacked, and generally treated like crap because abled people are on a witch hunt trying to catch ‘fakers’. That could easily be another post all on its own, but the point I’m trying to make is this. When somebody feels ashamed or afraid of asking for help, it never ends well. They’re either going to hurt themselves trying to be independent or they’ll hate themselves when they can’t be. Or both.
It’s okay to not be able to do something, even though it can be frustrating sometimes. Just because I’m comfortable with my disease doesn’t mean I love everything about it. I’ve started screaming because I latched my bedroom door and couldn’t get it back open after 20 minutes of trying. One time, my brother and I were home alone and 10 minutes after my mom left the house I dropped the game we were going to play on the floor. Like, I will never forget how mad I was in that moment. Ever! Sometimes it really sucks to not be able to do something on your own, but that’s still the reality and it doesn’t say anything bad about you as a person.
No one can do everything without help. I get that me needing help going to the bathroom is pretty different than needing help with calculus. Except when you break it down… it’s really not. We put too much pressure and place too much value on independence when we, as humans, are meant to work together to survive anyway.
The idea of being disabled makes so many people uncomfortable that they’ll go out of their way to avoid acknowledging it. I’ve heard people say they’d rather be dead and call it a lifelong punishment. The truth is, it’s just a natural part of life. It doesn’t have to be so feared or looked down upon.
Denying the experiences of 20% of the population only harms disabled people and prevents society from moving towards acceptance, inclusion, and accessibility.