Issues Facing People with Physical Disabilities

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Issues Facing Peoplewith Physical Disabilities

Media plays a fundamental role in the dissemination of information tothe mass population. However, it has some detrimental effects on thesociety, particularly in the way it portrays people with physicaldisabilities. For many years, the physically disabled have endureddefamation and misrepresentation in the entertainment and news. Themedia tend to concentrate on impairment when depicting people withdisabilities which result in the discrimination of these individuals.It does this by associating the disabled persons’ inability tosocialize to their physical impairment. As such, these persons areportrayed as victims or helpless objects of sympathy and pity.According to Sullivan (2011), the media uses the medical model ofdisability when depicting people with physical impairment. Accordingto this model, the disability is a malfunction or illness. As such,disabled people are shown as dependent on healthcare professionalsfor maintenance and cure. This model also conveys the message thatdisabled people are passive and do not engage in regular activitiesas a result of their disability. Apart from promoting discriminationagainst the disabled, the media tend to enforce stereotypes againstthese individuals. For example, the media depict these individuals assinister or evil.

There are several stereotypes about the physically disabled peoplethat affect this group emotionally, socially, and economically. Thedisabled are viewed as a burden to their families and the society atlarge. For example, people see these individuals as acting ashindrances to their children’s desire to get education. This isbecause some of them need assistance moving from one part to anotherwhich is mostly offered by their children. Besides, these individualsare portrayed as non-sexual. The other stereotype that is detrimentalto the disabled is their portrayal as harboring self-destructivebehaviors. This means that these individuals are viewed as beingtheir own worst enemy. The disabled people also get undesiredattention. People tend to think that these individuals enjoy theattention they receive as this translates to more money or help(Sullivan, 2011).

Among the Greeks, the disabled were considered inferior. This isevidenced in Plato’s Republic where he recommended that deformedoffspring be put away in mysterious unknown places (Munyi,2012). After this period, Christianity startedspreading the message that disability is neither a punishment nor adisgrace but a means of purification. However, during the 16thcentury, Christians such as John Calvin argued that people withdisabilities were possessed by evil spirits(Munyi, 2012). Consequently, religious leader startedsubjecting the disabled to physical and mental pain as a way ofremoving the evil spirits. In the 19th century, thedisabled were viewed as unfit, and as such, they were expected to beeliminated by the process of natural selection. Individuals who heldthis position who also happened to be proponents of Social Darwinismopposed the state aid to people with disability. They argued thathelping the disabled hampered the process of natural selection. Insome cultures, the disabled were completely rejected. At this time,such individuals were grudgingly kept alive by their relatives.However, there were some cultures where the disabled were treatedwith unusual respect. Some communities in Benin viewed children bornwith disabilities as protected by supernatural forces(Munyi, 2012). Thus, they were treated well as it wasbelieved that such individuals brought good luck to theircommunities. However, much has changed on how the society perceivespeople with disability. Today, organizations are employing peoplewith disability. Besides, such individuals are receiving even higheraccess to educational opportunities. Over the recent past, variousstates and jurisdictions have enacted legislations aimed atbenefiting people with physical disability. Such legislations haveimproved access to public spaces for people with disabilities(Munyi, 2012).

Disability hate crimes involve hostility toward a person withdisability or perceived disability. It takes the form of murder,verbal abuse, intimidating behavior, vandalism, and assault. According to Mortimer (2015), hate crimes against people withdisability has risen by 41% in the United Kingdom in 2014. Hatecrimes against people with physical disability may be perpetrated bystrangers in public space or in the family context. Hate crimes havedetrimental effects on the disabled. For example, some of thedisabled people have been killed, assaulted or even lost theirproperties through vandalism. Verbal abuse against these peopleaffects their self-esteem. Besides, some employed disabled peoplehave been fired after saying that they are ill.

Apart from hate crimes, disabled people go through much suffering. Physically disabled people find it hard to secure jobs which meanthat a substantial number of them live in abject poverty. Besides,some of them face numerous hurdles trying to access services due tothe buildings and infrastructures that are not conducive to them(Kirst-Ashman, 2011). Social workers need to be aware that somefamilies still consider the physically disabled as burdens. As such,a substantial number of people with physical disabilities areconfined to their homes, preventing them from accessing variousservices such as counseling as well as education opportunities. Assuch, people with disabilities tend to be invisible to socialworkers. Besides, an increasing number of the physically disabled areenrolled in alternative home care instead of living with theirfamilies. Additionally, the physically disabled, particularly peoplerequire certain machines such as wheelchairs to move from one placeto another. These wheelchairs are expensive, and some of thephysically disabled people cannot afford to buy them. According toKirst-Ashman (2011), depending on their disabilities, the physicallydisabled often experience greater difficulties maintaining autonomycompared to their able-bodied counterparts. As such, the physicallydisabled require support to do most of their activities, and thiscreates an avenue for other individuals to perpetrate hate crimes andviolence against this group.

Social workers focus on individual, career, community strengths andneeds and work collaboratively to help people with physicaldisabilities to achieve their goals. Social workers employ a holisticapproach that takes into consideration the systematic and individualfactors affecting the lives of people with disabilities. Forinstance, social workers work alongside the disabled to advocate fortheir rights and empower them as well as their families to meet theirvarious needs (Kirst-Ashman, 2011). The rising rate of hate crimesagainst people with physical disabilities will impact social workpractice as it calls for a change in the risk assessment approachcurrently in use. Research shows that the disabled people arephysically abused by their family members and relatives. Theincreasing number of hate crimes perpetrated towards the disabledmean that social workers need to extend their social-legal aids tothis group. This will help the physically disabled deal with thepsychological trauma as well as the economic loss resulting fromviolence perpetrated against them. It is also evident that peoplewith physical disabilities are negatively portrayed by the media, andthis has impacted the society’s view of this group. As such, socialworkers need to initiate a campaign that will utilize the mediaplatforms to challenge the stereotypes against the people withphysical disabilities. Additionally, social workers need to promotethe inclusion of people with disabilities into the society bystimulating changes in practices and attitudes of the general public.Additionally, there is a need for social workers to lobby the federaland state governments to provide aid in terms of financialassistance, counseling, disability-related expenses, and adequatefacilities to people living with physical disabilities (Kirst-Ashman,2011).

Jamie Smith was born with all body parts. However, for now, he doesnot have both his limbs which were amputated from the ankle region.He now relies on a wheelchair to move from one area to another. Hewas involved in a grisly road accident in which both his limbs wereseverely damaged when he was in 5th grade. He learnt ofhis disability two days later when his doctor broke the news to himthat both of his feet had been amputated from the ankle point. JamieSmith told me that at first, he thought that he was dreaming. Hisfamily was present when he received the awful news of his permanentdisability, but still, he wished he could wake up from the dream andfind his legs operating normally. After constantly denying hiscondition, he was subjected to intensive therapy while still in thehospital. Some of his friends visited him when he was in thehospital, but no amount of reassurance could bring him to accept hiscondition. Everybody was overly concerned about him. However, theirlevel of concern made him feel terrible and pathetic about himself.He felt helpless seeing people help him do things that he hadpreviously done with much ease. For example, he recalled one daywhen his mother tried to help him wear a shirt, although both hishand were operating normally. After two months of intensivehome-based care, he was ready to embark on his studies, but thingwere no any different at school. For example, on his first days as adisabled student, all his classmates wanted to sit next to him.Besides, everybody was greatly concerned over his health. Forexample, when he sneezed, almost all his classmates would stop whatthey were doing and stare at him. He hated the extra attention hereceived. He told me that the worst case of discrimination came whenhe applied for a job. Although the job required minimal movement, hewas not recruited despite possessing all the required qualifications.According to Jamie Smith, the most common issue impacting people withdisabilities is discrimination, particularly when it comes to jobinterviews. Apart from discrimination, people with physicaldisabilities are the worst hit by poverty as most of them are unableto acquire quality education. Emotionally, physically disabled peopleget unnecessary attention, according to Jamie Smith. Even when adisabled person has the relevant document and goes ahead to secure ajob, he/she is always looked down upon by his/her colleagues. Inworkplaces, people tend to view the physically disabled asbeneficiaries of some form of preferential treatment.


Kirst-Ashman, K. (2011). Social Work &amp Social Welfare:Critical Thinking Perspectives (3rd ed.).Cengage Learning Inc.

Mortimer, C. (2015). “ Hate Crimes against disabled people rises41% in one year.” Accessed on October 9, 2016.

Munyi, C. W.(2012). Past and present perceptions towards disability: A historicalperspective.&nbspDisabilityStudies Quarterly,&nbsp32(2).

Sullivan, K. (2011). The prevalence of the medical model ofdisability in society. Accessed on October 9, 2016.

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