Debunking 10 Myths about Disability

Myth: People with Disabilities Don’t Have Normal Lives

Overall, people with disabilities live the same as you and I. Although, some ways of doing things may be a little bit different depending on the type and severity of the disability. For example, someone with limited use of their arms and legs can drive, but their car will be fitted with hand controls for gas and brakes and possibly a special handle to grip on the steering wheel.

Myth: All Wheelchair Users are Paralyzed and, Therefore Cannot Walk.

Some people can walk, but their strength may be limited so they use a wheelchair to enable them to travel longer distances. Some people who use wheelchairs prefer to transfer to more comfortable chairs such as those at their desk or in a restaurant. So don’t be shocked or accuse someone of “faking it” when they stand up.

Myth: Deaf People Cannot Speak.

Deafness does not affect the vocal cords, although it can affect a person’s ability to hear and monitor the sounds they make. Some people who are deaf make a conscious choice not to use their voice while others choose to speak. The type and degree of hearing loss as well as the age of the person when they became deaf (i.e. before or after learning to speak English) also influence their speech.

Myth: Children Should Never Ask About Disability

Many children have a natural, uninhibited curiosity and may ask questions that some adults consider embarrassing. But scolding curious children may make them think having a disability is “wrong” or “bad.” Most people with disabilities won’t mind answering a child’s question.

Myth: All Disabilities Can be Seen

Nope, they really can’t. Millions of Australians live with a disability – and 90% have what is called an invisible disability. Invisible disabilities aren’t easy to spot and can include MS, autism, ADHD, brain injuries, mental illness, epilepsy, learning disabilities, chronic pain… the list goes on.

Some disabilities will become more obvious once you get to know someone, but many will be hidden unless they choose to tell you about it.

Myth: People Who Have Down Syndrome Cannot Walk or Play Sports.

An inability to walk is not a characteristic of Down syndrome. However, getting early physical therapy to ensure proper walking is essential and builds the foundation for sports aptitude.

Myth: People With Autism Don’t Feel Emotion

This is simply not true. People with autism are completely capable of feeling all emotions. Due to the fact that autism can impact one’s ability to communicate and socially interact, this is often misinterpreted as being an expression of a lack of interest or inability to make connections and relationships. Autistic people can also struggle with interpreting other people’s emotions, body language and expressions, and understanding social nuances. This different level of understanding and interaction might impact on their ability to connect and socialise but is not reflective of their unwillingness or disinterest. Therapy and professional intervention can help autistic individuals to implement their very human desire to connect.

Myth: All Persons with Hearing Disabilities Can Read Lips, and People Who are Blind Acquire a “Sixth Sense.”

Fact: Lip-reading skills vary among people who use them and are never entirely reliable. Although most people who are blind develop their remaining senses more fully, they do not have a “sixth sense.”

Myth:  Living with a Disability is Brave.

Society loves the story of an individual who overcomes hardship, again and again. However, someone who lives with a disability is only learning how to adapt to a different lifestyle. They didn’t set out to be inspirational. Most of the time, they just want to live their lives. People with disabilities are often portrayed as superhuman or placed on a pedestal of sainthood.

Myth: Autistic People Cannot Learn.

Like with all people, educating someone with autism takes an understanding of their needs, abilities, and learning style. Individuals with autism may require more understanding, method adaptation and therapy to achieve the same level of learning, but some may not. Some may be even easier to teach than people or children without autism. Effective and professional therapy can also be used to help autistic people with difficulties learning improve and progress at their own rate and speed.


While stereotypes persist, it’s possible for society to change the narrative about disability myths and stigmas. And it’s something that can be done, one person at a time. Some of the best ways that individuals within communities can create a world that eliminates barriers for people with disabilities is by planning events with accessibility in mind. By avoiding the use of limited accessible spaces such as parking spots or bathroom stalls, and speaking up when negative words or phrases are used about people with disabilities, we can all create an equitable world.

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