The Facts, Stories, and Myths of Disabilities

So, it turns out that March is not only National Women’s History month; it’s also National Disability Awareness Month. This means I get to write about more awareness related stuff! Anyway, the purpose is to share information about disabilities, be they physical or mental, to dispel stereotypes, and to learn how individual people have dealt with living with disabilities. In this blog, I am going to be looking at one book series, Disabilities:insights from across fields and around the world, that has three volumes, shelved in Reference on the first floor. And yes, I am going to be looking at all three of them, examining experiences, cultural issues and stigmas (pleasedon’t get your knowledge of mental illness from TV’s Law and Order), and the more practical and legal ways people deal with these issues. And no, I don’t think many people deal with them through being “inspirational” in a made for TV Hallmark movie. So let’s get started!

                                                    Disabilities (The Experience)

This first book is the most informational, defining what constitutes a “disability”, how they are caused, and what that means for individual people and society at large. Each chapter has a different author and a different topic, all somewhat based around information on specific types of disabilities. It ranges from “But Stroke Happens to Older People Doesn’t It?” a chapter about people in their 30s or 40s dealing with the physical and emotional aftermaths of suffering a stroke, to “Disability in Arab Societies”, a chapter about…people with disabilities in Arab societies. Both of these chapters combine general information as well as personal stories. If you’re reading this book for a paper, it also has lot of references at the end of each chapter, telling where the authors got all their information, as well as where to find more. As a start to this book series, it’s a good way to begin, laying out the groundwork for the later books that get into more details of the issues discussed. And it is a much better way to get information on normal people living with disabilities than whatever is being shown on some procedural this week.

                                       Disabilities (The Context)
 This book, while in the same series with the same themes, covers environmental, social, and cultural considerations. Where the first book was defining what exactly a disability is, this is more about how society reacts to them. Governments around the world have long struggled with how to help people with disabilities, and how much they can and should help. Or, how much people with disabilities even want help. In one chapter, called “Autonomy and Disability: A Quest for Quality of Life”, the author discusses how people with disabilities have fought to be treated like anyone else. It’s more about people with disabilities who want to be independent. More importantly, it asks how society can support people with various disabilities who want to live independently, especially children who want to learn to eventually function as adults. There is another chapter about a nurse who changes her whole perspective on research and disabilities when her brother is in a car accident and becomes brain damaged. It also provides a very harrowing look into what families go through when someone gets a brain injury, and how little support they receive in health care settings. Yeah, this book is not always super cheerful, to be honest. But, it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be both informative, and personal. And this one is personal in ways that the last one was not.

Disabilities (Responses)

So this is the third in our trilogy, and the one that combines both the elements of the series, the personal stories and the facts. It is also the book that goes abroad a lot, looking at treating disabilities in elementary students in Greece, cancer related disabilities in Canada, and the increasing issues of disability in Sri Lanka, among many others. It’s mostly facts, but they’re woven into personal stories, which I think is an interesting way to talk about these issues. Plus, people don’t always think much about how different countries deal with disabilities, and it’s interesting seeing how different cultures have tried to deal with things. While the second book was about society, this one is more about political issues. It deals less with how society or individuals manage physical or mental issues, and more with how countries and governments deal with them. Some of the chapters are more like the first book, just lots of information, while some are more like the second, and are more personal. Which one is your preference? Doesn’t matter, because there are plenty of both!

All three of these books provide both information and personal stories about living with various disabilities. And with disabilities, it’s important (again, I feel like I keep repeating this)to talk about these things. People who have issues mentally and physically have long been unfairly stereotyped and overlooked, as either weak or “crazy”. The only way to for people to really get over that is to get information, and also to hear actual stories of real people who face these problems every day, and just live their lives, with turning into the killer of the week on CSI, or some awful inspirational Lifetime movie. The real life stories are much better, and rarely subject us to painful adult contemporary soundtracks.  
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