The media and society seem to have quite polarizing opinions about people with disabilities. They're either portrayed as heroic and superhuman or as helpless victims. These stereotypes about disabilities can make differently-abled people feel limited.
To make matters worse, differently-abled people often face severe repercussions due to these stereotypes. They may be excluded from social groups, miss job opportunities, or fall behind in school due the negative beliefs of others. And sometimes, people with disabilities begin to believe these negative stereotypes, which can be detrimental to their mental health and quality of life.
Everyone deals with stereotypes that affect them differently, but through education and open, honest discussions with differently-abled people, we can work together to create an inclusive, supportive society.
Stereotypes About Disabilities: What is Disability Stigma?
Unfortunately, there are still quite a few stereotypes about disabilities that can create a "disability stigma," which is a set of negative beliefs about people with disabilities. Historically, people with disabilities have been associated with diseases, curses, helplessness, and other erroneous beliefs.
Before empowering people with disabilities, we need to understand how disability stigmas affect their daily lives. While every differently-abled person is different, the disability stigma can play out in the following ways:
While none of these negative beliefs are true, they significantly impact the lives of differently-abled individuals. The good news is that, together, we can eliminate disability stigmas by breaking down stereotypes about disabilities and listening to the concerns of differently-abled individuals.
The Most Common Stereotypes About Disabilities
It's important to acknowledge that stereotypes are oversimplified generalizations or assumptions about a group of people and often perpetuate misconceptions and discrimination. Also, stereotypes about people with diverse abilities can greatly vary depending on a person's cultural, societal, and individual perspectives.
Let's discuss some of the most prominent stereotypes about disabilities and why they're harmful to people with disabilities.
1. People with Disabilities are "Brave"
Most people don't mean any harm when they say that differently-abled people are "brave" or "courageous," but many people with disabilities find these phrases of this nature patronizing and even offensive.
People with disabilities want to be treated the same as everyone else, which means that they don't want praise for living independently. Most differently-abled people don’t feel as though they’re exceptionally courageous for simply living their lives.
2. People with Disabilities Can't Enjoy Certain Activities
Sometimes, able-bodied people view people with disabilities as incompetent and unable to enjoy fun activities. This erroneous stereotype about people with disabilities from having fulfilling experiences with others. In many cases, people say that this type of treatment feels more debilitating than their disability.
The truth is people with developmental disabilities can make significant contributions to the workforce and society. People with physical disabilities can exercise and form meaningful relationships, while visually impaired people can enjoy cinema and read books.
3. People with Disabilities Have Enhanced Senses
A common stereotype about disabilities is that differently-abled people have stronger senses than others. In other words, there's a prevalent misconception that when a person loses one sense, their other senses are enhanced. While this stereotype may seem relatively harmless at first, it plays into these stereotypes about disabilities playing into the belief that differently-abled individuals are "superhuman."
The "superhuman disabilities" stereotype is a portrayal that attributes extraordinary abilities or talents to individuals with disabilities solely based on their condition. By emphasizing exceptional skills or talents, this stereotype tends to overlook the diversity within the disabled community. It fails to recognize that individuals with disabilities, like anyone else, possess a wide range of abilities, talents, and interests that are not solely defined by their disability.
4. People with Disabilities Don't Have Normal Lives
Most stereotypes about disabilities perpetuate the myth that differently-abled individuals need assistance when caring for themselves or performing daily tasks. Although it's a common misconception that people with disabilities need a lot of help from others, this isn't true.
Differently-abled people can be highly capable, independent, and lead fulfilling lives. Although the media may often portray people with disabilities as incompetent, they can live successful, happy lives.
5. People with Disabilities are Pitiable or Inspiring
When people are pitied solely because of their disability, it perpetuates a narrative of victimhood and reinforces the notion that disability is inherently negative. Pity can strip individuals of their agency and dignity, disregarding their abilities, accomplishments, and aspirations.
On the other hand, when people with disabilities are treated as a source of inspiration, it can be equally problematic. This perspective often focuses on their ability to persevere in the face of adversity, but it overlooks their challenges and their right to live ordinary lives. It places an undue burden on individuals with disabilities to constantly prove their worth and can create unrealistic expectations.
Break Stereotypes and Get Fit with Let’s Go Fitness
No matter what disability someone has, there’s no need to let stereotypes prevent you from accomplishing your goals! If you’re interested in connecting with people like yourself and getting in shape along the way, Let’s Go Fitness is at your service.
At Let's Go Fitness, we strive to create a welcoming environment where anyone can make friends, get in shape, and have fun doing it! Our adaptive fitness specialists guide participants every step of the way. Whether our athletes need accommodations, modifications, or simply an understanding listener, we'll help everyone reach their goals.
Are you ready to start a fitness journey for yourself or a loved one? Contact Let's Go Fitness today to learn more about our membership packages!