Being disabled is not a disease. It's not contagious. People come in all shapes and sizes. We often compare ourselves with somebody else's appearance. Have you ever approached someone just because you liked how they looked, without knowing anything about them? Are there other people you did not talk to, or were afraid to talk to because you did not like the way they looked, or because they looked different from you?
What about people with eyes that do not see, ears that don't hear, legs and arms that don't work? What about people who must sit in a wheel chair all day or use crutches and braces to move about? What about people whose bodies jerk out of control or whose hands are twisted? What about people who see letters and numbers backwards? Some people are born with their disability, others become disabled through accident or illness. No one chooses to be disabled and no one can predict if it might happen to them.
People with disabilities have the same human qualities we all have. When we judge people by how they look, we limit ourselves and them. Do you ever wonder how many good friends you passed by because they looked different?
You may feel guilty or uncomfortable when you are around someone with a disability. You may wonder why you are OK and they are not, or what you should say or not say. You might be afraid to talk about things you like to do - run, play ball, listen to music - because they can't do these things, or might have difficulty doing them, or fear that they will be upset, hurt or feel pitied. You may have even seen someone in school make fun of another person because of their disability and felt bad about it, but did not know what to do.
Did you know that people with disabilities can do most of the things that you can? They swim, jog, ski, ride bicycles, bowl, and play basketball. They read, write, use computers, go to movies and go to concerts. They go to college, hold jobs, travel, fly planes, and drive cars. They are parents and they can be best friends too.
Don't let someone's "outside" prevent you from discovering their "inside". Reach out. You may be surprised at what you find.
If you have a disability, remember you are not "your disability". While it may affect your appearance on the outside, who you are on the inside is what really matters. There are agencies that offer services to young people with disabilities. To find out what specific programs or services are available, or to get more information, call:
The following organizations will provide information and/or assistance (click on the agency's name for more information):