Albany, Oregon, U.S.A. – You would think that time has advanced and society should be more inclusive – not exclusive – but sadly, it’s not.
How society perceives the disabled is terrible.
People look at someone in a wheelchair wearing shoes and claim they’re a “faker.”
People with invisible disabilities are told, “Why do you use a wheelchair if you can walk?” or “What’s wrong with you?”
They even end up touching your wheelchair without asking.
If you have a spinal cord injury, you get the most common questions, “Do you own a license for that thing?” or “You’re so strong!”
There are also the infantilizing comments directed to adults using a wheelchair, such as “What do you like buddy?” or “Are you doing okay, baby girl?”
These patronizing comments can be really depressing to someone just trying to live their life.
Even when you try to advocate for yourself at hospitals, almost no one listens to you. You can sometimes find a couple good doctors who actually will listen to you, but it’s rare.
They treat you as if you do not even know your own medical history, like you are just a number.
It’s incredibly dehumanizing.
When you’re in a wheelchair, you’re more at risk for abuse because the disabled can’t easily fight back.
Every societal risk the disabled community faces has the potential to make them depressed.
Disabled youth are also at high risk for being bullied in school. This is part of the reason for the ridiculous stereotype that disabled people always have to be sad.
Some disabled people – just like some able-bodied people – are depressed at times, but being disabled does not automatically make a person sad or depressed.
The toxic societal expectations of today affect the disabled directly. On social media, so many people spout off about all the things a disabled person cannot do.
That is a huge burden for disabled kids. They feel the need to completely perfect – nothing less – just to get to the same place as an able-bodied peer. They want the perfect GPA, weight, perfect school, and the perfect life.
When things don’t go to plan, there’s a lot of anxiety. It’s hard to find friends, especially as a disabled individual, since the pandemic started.
It gets lonely – extremely lonely.
That’s why you have to find real friends who tell you everything you can do and not what you can’t.
McKenzie Andersen is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.