Loving the disabled community is not simple but its worth researching and being uncomfortable for the sake of loving others.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience of the disabled community, and I can’t help but think most people don’t know how to care for this community. Most people really don’t know what to do. It sometimes is a lack of love, but most people have no idea what is helpful.
- Be a friend – Be present and spend quality time with us. Don’t simply check-in if you can be around. It seems like an easy thing, but to be a friend you have to carve out time to what friends do. That can change from friend groups, but the key idea is show them love and encouragement by actively searching out time to be around and live life together. Friends spend time time together, and since some of us can’t go out much, seek out ways to be involved in everyday things. You probably can’t be there most days, but sacrifice something to be a friend.
- Go to them – This is somewhat a sub-point to the first one, but one major way the disabled feels apathy is through most people not going out of their way to their house/residence. Most physically disabled individuals feel forgotten and not loved by a lack of visitors. Being physically disabled can be isolating from the outside world and even their loved ones. Being present is a gesture of love and your willingness to sacrifice for them. Just as an example: I have only had one friend come over consistently over the course of the year I have been home. That’s not meant to be resentful or out of anger. He shows his love by coming over, texting me, and doing tasks I can no longer do.
- Talk about life – Don’t always open conversation with questions or comments on their health. Talk about everything else in the person’s life. Life is so amazing and its filled with a wide range of topics. Open up a conversation with the same things as you do with anyone else: sports, news, jokes, stories, what you saw on Facebook, etc. I – and most disabled individuals – don’t want their conversations to point back to their differences, and if you talk about life it will help you be a better friend. Let your conversations demonstrate that your view of them is not solely shaped by whatever the disability might be. Talk about life.
- Accommodate them and make it a point to involve them – If you’re having an event or get-together, make sure you think through the accessibility of it. Be mindful and think through how to involve the individual(s). One example is if you are having an event on grass and you know a person in a wheelchair will be there, give them something to do on a flat surface or give them a way to get through the rough terrain. Think through a way to get everyone involved. This is another way to love the disabled community.
These ways are from my experience, which I’ve learned in my limited one year. This is not a post out of bitterness but out of love. I hope this is helpful and a good place to start.