Challenging Cultural Misconceptions of Disability
Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions in this blog are formed from my personal life experiences
Challenging cultural misconceptions of disability is an important part of life for a disabled person with an Asian background. I have faced various cultural misconceptions regarding Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy & disability in general throughout my 26 years on this Earth.
Before I dig deeper into the misconceptions, I want to give you some background information about myself. I was born in England but my parents were born in Kenya and my grandparents originated from India. I was born with Duchenne MD but only correctly diagnosed at age 9. My parents divorced around that time because Dad did not want to care for a disabled son.
If you prayed harder or did yogic breathing, you can be cured
This misconception seems harmless but with a deteriorating disease like DMD, a cure is impossible. Some people believe that if disabled people try harder somehow they can be cured. Personally facing this problem aged 9 was difficult when a family member insensitively said this after my DMD diagnosis.
You are disabled because you did something wrong in your past life
This is the most soul-destroying misconception because disability is not a curse or punishment as every human being does have unique roles to play on Earth. Mother faced this belief from my Grandmother but she challenged this close-minded belief. The next generation with better education and no language barrier always confront these archaic beliefs. I hope tackling this difficult topic with my life experiences can provide awareness to form realistic cultural concepts of disability.
Asking my Mother or PA ‘Can he talk?’ The opinion that all disabled people must have some kind of learning disability
Ableism: the concept that able-bodied people are better than people with a disability. This concept is not just a cultural issue but also a general one faced by all disabled people. It makes you and your life seem somewhat insignificant; it isn’t appropriate or polite behaviour to assume you can to ask that question to a disabled person. When have you ever heard of a non-disabled person answering that question?
Disabled people should be pitied or seen as a charity cases
This misconception seems harmless at first but when people (usually the older generation) pity you or start crying just looking at you. There is an expected feeling that having a disability must be horrific so nobody could ever enjoy life or should accept that they are less than perfect. As a person living with a disability, it is a humiliating experience as you are not born to be treated differently just on the basis of your physical body.
The opinion that no young person would want to care for a ‘disabled’ person let alone date one
This belief follows on from the idea of disability as a curse. It belittles you by assuming you are a burden or unable to have a ‘normal’ life just because you cannot walk. I do need more assistance to enjoy life than the non-disabled population but there are many caring people out there that do want to become carers. Disabled people do have the right to find love but sex and relationships is a subject rarely spoken about in Asian culture let alone whilst also concerning disability. Personally, I have fostered this ableist belief of not being perfect enough for love since I stopped walking and when my Dad completely ignored any sign of my DMD or apparent imperfections, as I do not live up to his notion of a son. Now I have stopped feeling inadequate for love.
Thank you for reading & please feel free to comment and share your experiences.