The Problem With Black and White Thinking When it Comes to Disability

the problem with black and white thinking when it comes to disability

the problem with black and white thinking when it comes to disability

The Problem With Black and White Thinking When it Comes to Disability


I sometimes like to use my blog to write out my feelings and recently this is one thing that has been on my mind. There is a real problem with black and white thinking when it comes to disability. People think that if someone uses a cane, a walker, a wheelchair or any other assistive device that they must be unable to walk or function without it and if they can on occasion, they don’t “really need it”.

I am here to tell you this is a false belief. There is nothing wrong with a person using a device all the time if that is what they need, so I am not talking about that. I am however talking about the fact that I sometimes need to use a cane when I am out and about or a motorized scooter in the store. I have had people give me dirty looks because I walk from my car to the scooter and sit down. They seem to scoff at me because I “walked there just fine”. In their eyes, I am abusing it and whats tops it off, I am overweight, so therefore, I must be using it because I am lazy (that is a whole other post for another day).

There are MANY invisible illnesses out there. I can’t even begin to name them all. One of the hardest parts of having one of these illnesses is the fact that those who have it often feel like they have to be ready to explain themselves to the nosey and judgmental public (and sadly some people have to explain it to those close to them all the time) when they use these carts or a transport chair or a cane. For most people who don’t live with it, disability is either black or white. You either are fully disabled or you are fully able-bodied. This is just simply not true and assumptions such as these can really hurt.

Why do I use a cane or the motorized cart sometimes? I use them because I suffer from chronic pain and neurological symptoms such as vertigo as well as extreme fatigue. I have an invisible illness. I have Lyme disease.

I write this because I know that I shouldn’t care about what others, especially perfect strangers, think of me, but I can’t help but feel their stares, sighs and dirty looks. I am young. I look healthy. People assume that the way I look is a direct sign of how I feel. Anyone with an invisible illness knows this is not logical.

I also write this because next week, (September 8-14, 2014)  is Invisible Illness week. There are millions of people living with an invisible illness. It is heart-breaking to know that so many people suffer from this sort of judgement and not only have to battle their own bodies, daily chronic pain, and other disabling symptoms and still also battle the stigma that they are faking it, making it up, “just depressed”, “just need a little more exercise” or can’t possibly be that disabled because you sometimes see them on a good day (and trust me, there are some good days for most people with an invisible illness.)


What can you do to help those with an invisible illness?


The next time you see someone who looks healthy get into a motorized cart at the store, walk with a cane on occasion, get out of their car and walk inside with a disabled tag or use a transport chair away from home, instead of judging them based on how healthy you perceive them to be, offer to help or maybe just even smile at them. I can tell you, having an invisible illness not only means the illness doesn’t show to most people, but it can also make you feel invisible to society unless there is judgement being passed.

You can also help by spreading awareness. With the Ice Bucket Challenge spreading awareness and helping to get donations for ALS, it is easy to see how just a little bit of awareness can mean a lot to those effected by an illness. Donate to a cause that helps those with an invisible illness get medical help, assistive devices, or does medical research. If you can’t donate, spread awareness on social media. Share this Post and the others I will be writing next week. The more people that know how invisible illness effects those that suffer, the more likely it is that this stigma will disappear and people will no longer feel the need to be ready to explain themselves while trying to get through the day.

Thanks for listening and thanks for spreading awareness.


invisible illness awareness week

6 Replies to “The Problem With Black and White Thinking When it Comes to Disability”

  1. What a good subject to talk about! There are so many people with invisible illness and my sister is disabled and has a parking permit. She does not drive and I take her to the grocery store for her needs. She uses a motorized chair and I park in a handicapped spot. It is true about getting dirty looks from people. Even when I park in a handicapped spot, they look at you like I do not deserve it. I sympathize with you on being treated unkind from strangers!

  2. I understand where you are coming from. I used to get those same looks when I would walk out of my car go to my trunk and pull out a manual wheelchair. I would stand there and assemble it, change out the tires for my heavy power assist wheels and then sit down, close the trunk and push myself away from the car. People are judgmental and because I was able to do all of that they felt that I did not need the wheelchair. what they did not know was that at that time in my life I was unable to walk more than five minutes without severe hip pain. It sucks that people are so judgmental, but it is great to get the word out there!!
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    1. It’s so silly. I know that it’s easy to say, “hey who cares what they think?” but when you have this kind of judgement on a regular basis, you start to get sensitive to it. People really don’t understand that for many people, these assistive devices allow us to get out and have a better quality of life. Without them, we are often homebound most days. I know I can go to a grocery store and if I am there too long, I am crawling to my car in pain by the time I get done. I have literally crawled up the stairs to my apartment, grocery bags in hand, because I overdid it.

  3. Thank you for a great article. I can’t even put into words how much I can totally relate……

    1. You are more than welcome, Paulette!

  4. I deal with something similar and have a handicap parking permit for a chronic illness as well as a hip problem where walking is difficult. I have to walk in the store with a cart. I get the looks every time I park in a handicap parking place. I need a hip replacement but the doctor has advised to hold off until I am no longer able to walk. Furthermore, when I schedule an appointment to see a new doctor and I explain I have Medicare for medical coverage, I have had the doctors staff ask why I am on Medicare. Wow, this just amazes me that someone would ask this question. Well, it is because I have a disability (and not just one; I have many disabilities). And if this isn’t enough, most of the so-called good friends I thought I had really weren’t. When I was out on disability and then diagnosed with cancer, you wouldn’t believe the people who walked the other way. Then I got ill again and had to move back to my hometown to have another surgery. The two friends I thought I had in my hometown also just stopped calling and would not return my calls.

    I feel your pain and I just stopped worrying about those things that I am unable to change. It is unfortunate that so many people are willing to judge a person before even knowing the truth about their disabilty (ies) .

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