How many people does it take to change a light bulb if one of them has a disability?

I came across this joke on Facebook posted in a disability group that I subscribe to on my news feed.  As well as somewhat amusing, I find this to be quite an accurate description of what it is like to be disabled, at least in my experience.

How many people does it take to change a light bulb if one of them has a disability?
Ten
One to tell the disabled person how brave and inspirational they are for trying to change a light bulb
One to ask the disabled person why they can’t work 8 hours a day 5 days a week if they can change a light bulb every few weeks
One to tell the disabled person that they really should not be trying to change a light bulb… you know… with their condition and all
One to send the disabled person an article about how someone with a completely different disability managed to change a light bulb
One to insist on helping the disabled person change the light bulb and get offended and assume it’s personal when they don’t accept the help
One to tell the disabled person that changing a light bulb really isn’t that hard and if they just thought positively and stopped being lazy, they could do it without help
One to ask the disabled person if they’re really disabled if they can manage to change a light bulb
One to send the disabled person a life hack on how to change light bulbs more easily that does not really help disabled people
One to tell a story about how their aunt’s boyfriend’s sister with the same disability changed a light bulb once
And the disabled person to change the flipping light bulb

This is why I find it so accurate:

One to tell the disabled person how brave and inspirational they are for trying to change a light bulb

This is one of my pet hates.  If most people did something as every day as change a light bulb no one could care less, they would not bat an eye lid, but suddenly someone with a disability does it and it becomes a very brave and inspirational thing to do.  I can see why a disabled person could be an inspiration if they did something extraordinary like win a medal at an international sporting event or became a top scientist, but then a non disabled person could also be inspirational for these things.  I want to be an inspiration to someone for doing something noteworthy, not just for living my life.  For most disabled people it is either get on and do these things as everyone else does or just sit there and vegetate and die.  What is worse is that even charities and well-meaning people who work with the disabled go on about how brave and inspirational they all are.  As if each and every disabled person is amazing just for surviving.

One to ask the disabled person why they can’t work 8 hours a day 5 days a week if they can change a light bulb every few weeks

Firstly a lot of disabled people want to work and would if they could get an employer to take them seriously.  If they have taken time off work for their illness or disability an employer may think they will not be a reliable member of the work force and could have too many sick days.  Ignorance is one reason a lot of disabled people do not work.  Secondly the day the disabled person changes the light bulb they may be having a good day, more or less pain-free and able to walk.  They may have waited days or weeks to change the bulb, being in far too much pain to do it any sooner.  Since a lot of disabled people’s conditions fluctuate and they may have more bad days than good it would be very hard for them to work a steady job.  Thirdly some disabled people can change a light bulb, but that will be the only thing they can do that day.  One simple task might leave some disabled people too tired or in pain to do anything else for some hours after, whether that is due to the strong medication they are on making them tired or the disability leaving them in pain if they do much.

One to tell the disabled person that they really should not be trying to change a light bulb… you know… with their condition and all

A lot of disabled people know more about their condition than some GPs.  If you have lived with a condition a long time chances are you have done a lot of reading up on it and listened to a lot of medical people tell you things about it.  So you should know if doing certain tasks are bad for your condition or not.  Then there is the fact that the disabled person has probably lived with the condition for quite some time and knows which tasks they are capable of doing safely and which they should avoid.

One to send the disabled person an article about how someone with a completely different disability managed to change a light bulb

Some people seem to think all disabilities are alike and that if one person with a disability can do something then every other disabled person should be able to do it.  Of course this is not true, every single disabled person is an individual and even people with the same condition can’t all do the same things.

One to insist on helping the disabled person change the light bulb and get offended and assume it’s personal when they don’t accept the help

If a disabled person politely turns down an offer of help, don’t take it personally, they just know they are perfectly capable of doing the task and in fact it might be quicker done alone.  Do not assume a disabled person needs help unless they ask or really look like they are struggling.  Think, would you at this point be offering the help if the person was not disabled?  If the answer is no, then most of the time you do not need to offer the help.

One to tell the disabled person that changing a light bulb really isn’t that hard and if they just thought positively and stopped being lazy, they could do it without help

Try telling that to a person fully wheelchair bound unable to reach the light to change the bulb.  The power of positive thought can do a lot of good, it can help with motivation and self-esteem, but there is very little it can do if you can’t reach the light in the first place!  It can also not do much if you have lost the use of your hands, say through arthritis.

One to ask the disabled person if they’re really disabled if they can manage to change a light bulb

Sometimes if people have not met many disabled people, they often form preconceptions of what it is to be disabled.  Not all disabled people will meet those preconceptions, in fact most of them probably won’t.  To be disabled does not always render the person totally incapable of doing simple everyday tasks.

One to send the disabled person a life hack on how to change light bulbs more easily that does not really help disabled people

After I looked up what a life hack even is, I realised it was those silly tips or tricks people send you about how to do something more efficiently, that usually ends up with me taking twice as long to do something than it would have done had I just done it the normal way.  Basically a life hack is yet more unwanted advice that ends up with me being more confused than I was in the first place.  Disabled people often find their own tricks to manage to do something the only way they physically can and don’t need advice they probably can’t use.

One to tell a story about how their aunt’s boyfriend’s sister with the same disability changed a light bulb once

So what if that person did change the light bulb, who flipping cares?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s