Friday, 24 April 2015

The Other Side of Overprotection by Sarah Evans

One of the common beliefs about people with disabilities is that we are vulnerable and need protection. This is partly true. We are more vulnerable in certain situations. However, protecting someone too much can further disable them.

There are a number of ways that a person can be overprotected. They may not be allowed to do things that other people their age are allowed to do, such as move out on their own, go out with their friends or even go on certain websites. People can also be overprotected emotionally. I feel like I fell into this category when I was growing up.

This is done out of love. Parents don't want their kids to get hurt, especially when they think their kids could get hurt more easily because of their challenges. They may believe that their kids already have a lot to deal with in their lives and so may not tell them about family issues that their other children know about.

The problem is that, disability or not, we all have to deal with these issues one day. So it is just a matter of how prepared we are. People who have been overprotected will be more afraid and, when the experience comes, they will have fewer tools and less confidence to deal with it. Also, and I speak from personal experience here, being over protected can give you an overly optimistic view  of the world and it can be painful when you realize this isn't the case.

The best thing to do is encourage all kids to take risks and help them to deal with whatever comes up in their lives. This may have to be done differently with different children, but it will help them to be prepared to successfully deal with challenges in their lives.

Sarah Evans has been a member of for over 20 years. She currently serves as a mentor at AbilityOnline and is an active mental health advocate for people with disabilities.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Mixed Feelings About ODSP by Sarah Evans

For the most part, I am grateful to be on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). It enables me to be financially independent and pay for things like groceries and rent for my apartment. But it is a double sided coin. The other side is that people who are on the program are only allowed to make $200 a month extra before the government takes money away. Some people on ODSP would be able to work, but the rules are a disincentive to do so.

Even though I don't think I would be able to work full-time, I would probably be able to do something. At one point last year, I thought about starting my own consulting business. I spoke to my ODSP worker and she said that I could start a business but I would have to report all of my earnings and the government would take half of my earnings away after the initial $200. Now I want to be an author and I have to wonder how selling my stories or even publishing a book would affect my ODSP.

I am not sure what an ideal solution would be. Maybe it is raising the $200 limit. I know that it does pay off to work because you can make more money in the end, but it seems so difficult to figure out all the reporting rules and the like. I know that these programs have rules for a reason (and a good reason at that) but it feels sort of like they need to take into account individual situations and be more supportive of people who want to be part of the workforce. But on the other hand, not having to go to work gives me a lot of time to work on my writing. So maybe in the end it is a trade off.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Fighting the Stereotypes by Chris Viola

Sarah Evans, another blogger at Ability Online, recently mentioned in one of her articles that people with disabilities are often stereotyped. Using her personal research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as her example, Sarah describes how many aspects of it are misunderstood by both writers and the general public. This is something that makes life even more difficult for us. If we mention to people that we have a condition, people make assumptions about our needs and our capabilities that may not be true at all. Here, I’ll talk about why this happens, and how to help fight the stereotypes.

I think one of the reasons people stereotype is pop-culture. Characters are often defined by their condition. The reason here is simple and can be looked at simply by thinking about what pop-culture really is: a series of fictional stories designed for the purpose of entertainment. Watching a middle-aged character wake up, go to work, come home do house work, engage in a hobby and then go to sleep would be boring, even though it would be possibly the most realistic portrayal of the majority of people’s lives. This is why almost no shows or movies are about that. Also, because often, disabilities are so complicated and have so many little ins-and-outs that they’re almost impossible to portray realistically on TV, and would still be a challenge to portray in full-length movies. These normally wouldn’t be a problem, as pop-culture isn’t designed to be entertainment, but that does lead to another problem, being that people often over-simplify.

Many people say, "I have a brother/sister/cousin/other relative with (insert disability here) so I know all about it." This is something that affects both the disabled and those with mental illness, which give us a similar problem: we are being compared to a single person. Stereotyping a disability is like stereotyping a race, gender or sexual orientation.

It is difficult to get people to stop stereotyping those who live with disabilities. This behaviour is a product of ignorance, and some people don't care to be in the know. Please bear in mind that most people are willing to be more sensitive and will learn, if given the chance. The key is to use whatever resources you have at your disposal to educate people. A former classmate of mine from college who is on the autistic spectrum recently posted a link to an article on to his Facebook page. The article explains some things about having autism that many people don’t know. The points in the article were bang on.

If you're in a position to educate people about your disability, then you should do so. Write, forward articles, be interviewed, or do whatever you can. If you want to learn about living with disabilities, then please do some research. As I stated in the opening paragraph, Sarah Evans simply did some research to find articles about the truth on PTSD. Sometimes either explaining the truth, or showing what others have said about it can lead to you educating someone, doing them, yourself, and society as a whole, a small favour.