Navigating your way around an inaccessible society is the everyday reality for disabled people.
We’re made to feel like an inconvenience when requesting adjustments.
We feel like the problem when a building isn’t accessible.
We’re met with disapproval when asking for assistance on public transport.
We find ourselves apologising when we ask a friend, family member or colleague to help us with something because we feel like we’re an inconvenience.
I’ve been caught up in all of these at one point or another. And I know that you probably have too.
Disabled people aren’t being awkward or difficult; we’re doing what we have to so that we can complete a task, do our jobs, or get from A to B independently.
Dear fellow disabled people: You are not a burden
We’ve all been there:
Feeling like you are the ‘problem’.
Not doing something to make it easier for everyone else.
Feeling awkward when people don’t treat you like a human being.
Having to justify reasonable adjustments or accommodations.
Guilt creeping in when you turn down an exciting project because your health comes first. Side note: your health should always be the priority.
Worrying you’re asking for too much when someone goes out of their way to make sure you can participate in an activity.
Every single one of these things makes you feel like a burden. We all wish that we could lock those feelings away, never to be seen again. If only we could!
Society isn’t accessible. It’s not made for disabled people in mind. Accessibility is often seen as extra work, rather than the true extent of how it enriches our lives and makes us feel.
From navigating a broken education system, to wishing employers would give you a chance to take a step on the career ladder, having to ask someone to stop what they’re doing and click a button on a website for you because it isn’t accessible – there’s no wonder disabled people are left feeling like a burden at times.
We are seen as the problem because we don’t fit the mould of today’s world. It’s about time that changed.
If society was fully accessible and inclusive, we wouldn’t feel that way.
We have come a long way in recent years. Thankfully, society is becoming more accessible. However, we still have a long way to go.
We all know what it feels like to worry you’re being a source of frustration or inconveniencing others. For disabled people, those feelings can be heightened.
If you’ve felt like that, I want you to remember this: disabled people are not a burden, and we never will be.
Remind yourself of those words whenever those feelings start to take over.
Most of the time, the situations which make us feel that way are out of our control.
You shouldn’t feel like a burden for stating your needs, asking for help from time to time or requesting reasonable adjustments. You’re just doing what you have to, often to get by.
What if we could eradicate the ideology of feeling like a burden? There’s no argument, for some people, that could quite possibly change the way they view their disability. That would be revolutionary.
If I’m honest, I wish I’d been able to eliminate those feelings sooner.
Over the years I’ve become a lot better at advocating for myself. I’ve come on leaps and bounds in feeling confident when talking about my disability. I’ve reached a point where I’ll take derogatory remarks on the chin.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still find me apologising when I don’t need to. That one’s a work in progress…
One thing that has become clear over the years is my shift in how I feel when I’m met with those critical comments. That shift has given me a more positive mindset when it comes to my disability. I feel confident when advocating for my rights because I know it’s the right thing to do.
I don’t want to be seen as the problem or the difficult one. No one does.
As much as we want to turn these feelings off and push them to the side, it’s easy for the switch to be turned on.
Disabled people are made to feel like the problem. Yet in reality, we aren’t the issue here. The main issue is that we live in a world that wasn’t designed for us.
The disabled young people growing up today are our future. Surely we owe them the reassurance that despite what society tells them, they aren’t a burden?
No one should have to carry that weight on their shoulders.
They should be able to confidently advocate for what they’re entitled to without worrying that others will see them as being difficult. They should have the freedom to go wherever they want, whenever they want. They should never feel like they are bearing the load just for growing up as a disabled person in today’s society.
In order for the younger generation of disabled people to believe those facts, we need to believe it ourselves. I know that can be hard sometimes.
When you’re faced with those unwanted feelings, remember that the reasoning is quite likely out of your control. You’re not a bad disabled person. You’re not letting the community down.
We aren’t the problem when we aren’t able to fully take part in a class because work hasn’t been put into an accessible format, meaning our only option is to muddle through.
We aren’t the problem when our application form for a job is pushed to the side because the perspective employer assumes that it is too ‘expensive’ or ‘time consuming’ to employ a disabled person.
We aren’t the problem when wanting to go out for a meal with our friends and the restaurant we planned on visiting doesn’t have a ramp, meaning we have to resort to plan B.
We aren’t the problem when met with an access refusal.
You see where I’m coming from?
Disabled people contribute to society. We play an equal part in relationships. We lead successful, fulfilling lives.
So the next time you feel like a burden, ask yourself what’s the real reason making you feel that way? Feel empowered knowing that you are trying your best, and that’s always good enough.
Where do you sit with feeling like a burden as a disabled person? Do you have any advice to share?