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Accepting my disability

What do you think?

Before you get started, think about how you would answer the following questions.

  1. How would you define the word disability? How would you describe your disability?
  2. What is the biggest challenge you face in school or everyday living because of your disability?
  3. What are some creative ways you have solved the challenges presented by your disability?
  4. What are some positive aspects of your disability?
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A part of life

Having a disability is a part of diversity in our culture. The concept behind diversity is to acknowledge, understand, value and celebrate differences among people. A disability is only one aspect of an individual. The process of learning about and accepting a disability is different for everybody.

Defining a disability

In the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination toward people with a disability), the term “disability” means all physical and mental impairments that limit one or more major life functions such as learning, walking, thinking, concentrating, seeing, hearing and talking. It is impossible to be familiar with all disabilities or know how each disability affects an individual’s life. However, after you have identified your strengths, it is important to learn about your own disability: what it is, how it affects your life and how to address the challenges it may present.

Understanding your disability

Many disabilities are first identified through medical or psychological evaluations. This information can be somewhat technical and difficult to understand, but it is important for individuals to learn what the information means. A first step in understanding your disability is to read your documentation and to talk with your teacher or other professionals to explain:

  • What is your disability?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What challenges do you have?
  • What accommodations are needed in class?
  • What suggestions, strategies or other resources are recommended?

Cultivate a positive attitude

Is the glass half empty or half full? Research has shown that having a positive attitude affects our overall health and success. Developing a positive attitude takes time, practice and commitment. How you view your disability can influence your self-esteem and self-confidence. People with disabilities may have negative experiences going through school, mainly from individuals who do not understand their learning needs. It is important to take time to talk with professionals, family and friends about your initial and ongoing feelings about having a disability. Others may help to address any negative feelings you may have, affirm your strengths, value your differences and identify some positive aspects of having a disability.

One important skill to develop involves rethinking any negative labels that you have come to believe about yourself. This involves teaching yourself to focus on the positive or look at things more optimistically. Successful people with disabilities are able to restate negative qualities or characteristics related to their disability in positive ways. Here are some examples of how that can be done.

Negative labels Positive rethinking
Bossy Leader
Strong-willed Tenacious
Failure Learns from mistakes
Questions authority Independent thinker
Day dreamer Imaginative
Hyperactive High energy

Successful people with disabilities also build a resilient and perseverant attitude in overcoming obstacles. Using a different method to get a job done is perfectly acceptable and often necessary when you have a disability. Solving potential problems takes personal creativity and sometimes connecting with professionals who have knowledge in specific areas.  Being resourceful and developing a determined attitude is key.