Around 1 in 6 (18%) people in Australia—or about 4.4 million—have disabilities. *
People with disabilities in our society can develop poor health,, employment issues, and mental health issues including self-esteem, lack of confidence, self-worth and depression. In their day to day lives, they can also experience ongoing discrimination and violence. The interesting part about working with people with disabilities is that the more you work with a client that has a disability, the less you see that disability and the more you see the person for who they truly are. The disability and all its aspects fade into the background as you develop a relationship with that person. Whether it be as a support worker, a carer or as a healthcare practitioner, the relationship deepens the more you are willing to see beyond the limitations of the body or intellect.
Working with people in the disability sector offers a wealth of understanding and insight into the world of day to day living for people that feel different. The challenges experienced for some people have been to even feel capable of getting to school or work without anxiety, depression, physical challenges or a fear of being seen as lacking or less than others.
The interesting part of working alongside people with disabilities is that, given the opportunity to be heard and understood, they are in fact, the same as anyone on this planet: wise, sensitive, challenged and sometimes even positive and insightful about all that life dishes out.
A disability is only a disability if we treat it that way. Meaning, sympathy for someone with any kind of disability is not the answer. Every person whether they have Autism, ADHD, Mental health issues or physical challenges should be treated with the same respect and responsibility as anyone else, equally. With respect and responsibility, they are confirmed in who they are as a person and at the same time, supported to bring their best to any situation.
‘There is no greater disability than to not
see a person for who they truly are’ ~ KF
Supporting a client with a disability to bring their best, is just the beginning. Allowing the person that you support to feel safe enough to connect to their feelings, their relationships, the way they communicate and the way they express who they are, is providing the care that they truly need to thrive in their lives, their relationships and communities.
It is important when e working with a person with a disability, to check in with your own level of sensitivity and allow yourself to be open, available, insightful, supportive and unassuming. Don’t be intimidated or pander to the client. Sympathy, patronising, and a lack of awareness will not build a true relationship with a person who is dis-abled. Playing a role and not being fully connected to your client will ironically cultivate a dis-ability within you, the practitioner or carer. If you do not see your client as an equal and look beyond the disabilities you will have a dis-ability yourself: he dis-ability to be inclusive, aware, non-judgemental, have clear boundaries, be open and be able to support your client to integrate into the greater community.
A disability is an opportunity for a person to develop and nurture their own personal growth throughout their life. As a practitioner, we have the opportunity to connect and play an equal part in the development of the relationship if we are willing to grow along the way with our client.