It can often be difficult for people who aren’t employed in social care jobs to have the same insight and understanding when it comes to dealing with disabilities. Often it isn’t due to malice or prejudice that misconceptions occur, but simply a lack of education in the range of conditions that constitute having a disability.
One of the most common issues faced by disabled people is the notion that you must be able to see the disability for it to be real. This problem is most notably realized in disputes over handicapped parking spaces – it is common for disabled people without visible disability to be abused for parking in a disabled space, even if they have the correct badge/sticker. For example, if someone is visually impaired or deaf, you may not be able to tell from just their outward appearance – therefore it is crucial that you don’t make assumptions about a person’s conditions.
Mental illnesses have been making a lot of press recently due to the lack of recognition they receive in being a legitimate condition. Many people unfortunately see them as the product of a “weakness of character”, when in fact the root causes are wide ranging and far more complex than this simplistic and narrow-minded statement would have you believe. Even former London mayor Ken Livingstone found himself in hot water recently due to his comments on mental health and the Shadow Defense minister Kevan Jones.
Furthermore, many think that mental illness won’t affect them – they are surprisingly common however and can be brought on by genetic and biological factors as well as social influences. Campaigners have been fighting back to educate people on the topic – awareness is a key part of this strategy and recent TV shows such as Homeland and River have played an important part in raising this. This wider stage is helping the public to understand not only how these illnesses can manifest themselves, but also that it is possible to hold down a job and most importantly to recover back to a normal life.
A further big misconception is that disabled people are unable to speak for themselves or are all mentally disabled no matter what their affliction is. For example, just because an individual uses a wheelchair doesn’t mean that they have a mental disability too – again, this comes down to making assumptions without taking care to find out the facts.
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