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Disability Awareness LogoDisability Awareness Myths and Facts

Everybody is fighting some kind of stereotype and people with disabilities are no exception.  The difference is that barriers people with disabilities face, begin with people's attitudes.  Attitudes are often rooted in misinformation and misunderstandings about what it is like to live with a disability.

Myth: There is nothing one person can do to help eliminate the barriers confronting people with disabilities.
Fact: Everyone can contribute to change.  You can help remove barriers by: " Understanding the need for accessible parking and leaving it for those who need it.

  • Encouraging participation of people with disabilities in community activities by using accessible meeting and event sites.
  • Understanding children's curiosity about disabilities and people who have them.
  • Advocating a barrier-free environment
  • Speaking up when negative words or phrases are used about disability.
  • Writing producers and editors a note of support when they portray someone with a disability as a "regular person" in the media.
  • Accepting people with disabilities as individuals capable of the same needs and feelings as yourself, and hiring qualified disabled persons whenever possible.

Myth: Disability means handicap.
Fact: People with disabilities are only handicapped when environmental or physical barriers or people's attitudes interfere with or prevent them from performing certain activities.

Myth: All people with disabilities are brave and courageous.
Fact: Adjusting to a disability requires adapting to a lifestyle, not bravery and courage.

Myth: The lives of people with disabilities are totally different than the lives of people without.
Fact: People with disabilities go to school, get married, work, have families, do laundry, grocery shop, laugh, cry, pay taxes, get angry, have prejudices, vote, plan and dream like everyone else.

Myth: People with disabilities are more comfortable with "their own kind".
Fact: In the past, grouping people with disabilities in separate schools and institutions reinforced this misconception.  Today, many people with disabilities take advantage of new opportunities to join mainstream society.

Myth: All disabilities are caused by a disease or are inherited.
Fact: Some disabilities are the result of a disease.  Some are hereditary while others are the result of an accident.

Myth: All persons who use wheelchairs are chronically ill or sickly.
Fact: The association between wheelchair use and illness may have evolved through hospitals using wheelchairs to transport sick people.  A person may use a wheelchair for a variety of reasons, none of which may have anything to do with lingering illness.

Myth: Wheelchair use is confining; people who use wheelchairs are "wheelchair-bound".
Fact: A wheelchair, like a bicycle or an automobile, is a personal assistive device that enables someone to get around.

Myth: Someone who uses a power wheelchair cannot drive a motor vehicle.
Fact: There are many modifications available for vehicles to allow people with disabilities to drive.

Myth: People with disabilities always need help.
Fact: Many people with disabilities are quite independent and capable of giving help.

Myth: People who are blind see nothing.
Fact: The most common myth is that all people who are blind live in a world of total darkness.  Blindness and vision loss come in many forms: tunnel vision, central vision loss, etc.  In fact, only 10% of people who have a vision loss and have been tested are totally blind; and the majority of these people can distinguish between light and dark.

Myth: People who are blind and visually impaired need others to care for them.
Fact: Given the proper instruction, people who are blind and visually impaired can, and do, live independent and productive lives.  The CNIB, or other agencies providing services, are available to assist their clients to reach their goals.

Myth: People who are blind or visually impaired have a better sense of hearing.
Fact: Some people who are blind just seem to use their other senses better than the rest of us - perhaps the person who is blind has learned to use them more effectively.

Myth: You should not use terms such as "I'll see you later" or "look at that".
Fact: Actually, people with visual disabilities are usually not offended by these expressions, and probably use these terms all the time, just like the rest of us.

Myth: When guiding a person that is blind, you should always take them by the arm.
Fact: To guide persons who are blind, let them take your arm and always ask if they need your assistance.

Myth: Hearing aids completely correct hearing.
Fact: While hearing aids are effective in managing hearing loss, they do not restore perfect hearing.  They amplify sounds, but in some cases the person is not able to understand distinct words.

Myth: A person who can speak cannot be deaf.
Fact: Actually, some people who are deaf can speak.

Myth: All languages are spoken languages.
Fact: Sign languages have existed for hundreds of years.  American Sign Language (ALS), commonly used in Canada, is the preferred and first language of many people who are deaf.  (LSF)  is the French sign language version used in Canada.

Myth: People with a hearing loss are "deaf and dumb".
Fact: Actually, many people with a hearing loss do not know sign language and find other ways to communicate, such as using assistive listening technology (for example, a hearing aid), may read lips, or a combination of a number of communication techniques depending on the situation.

Myth: All persons with hearing disabilities can read lips.
Fact: Lip-reading skills vary among people who use them and are never entirely reliable.

Myth: Deaf persons do not appreciate music, theatre, or movies because they cannot hear.
Fact: Today many movies and television shows are captioned.  That means that conversations appear as words on the screen.

Myth: Speaking poorly is a sign of low intelligence.
Fact: Speech disabilities are usually caused by physical disabilities or deafness.  There is no relationship between speech problems and low intelligence.

Myth: People with a speech impediment have a psychological disability or mental illness.
Fact: Relatively minor speech impediments may have a basis in a psychological disability or mental illness, but this should not be assumed.

Myth: People with learning disabilities are unable to learn in school.
Fact: Actually, most people with learning disabilities can learn very well.  They learn in different ways and may need different environments to learn.

People with learning disabilities cannot be productive.
Fact: Many people with learning disabilities develop ways to work with, or around, their particular type of learning disability.  Like most people, they will likely choose education and employment areas that utilize their strengths.

Myth: People with mental illnesses are dangerous or violent.
Fact: The truth is that mental illness is not a predictor of violence.  There are no more people with mental illness committing violent acts than in the general public.  In fact, people who have a mental illness are more likely to be victim to violence than committing violent acts.

Myth: People with mental illnesses are poor and less intelligent.
Fact: Actually, mental illness, like any other physical ailment, can affect anyone, regardless of intelligence or income.

Myth: Mental illness is caused by a personal weakness.
Fact: Actually, it is an illness that has nothing to do with being weak or having a character flaw.  People who have mental illnesses cannot just "snap out of it".

Myth: Mental illness is contagious.
Fact: This is incorrect.  The source of mental illness is neither bacterial nor viral, and there is no way to "catch it".