Disability at any age brings about profound changes to lifestyle and attitudes. Acquiring a disability through illness or accident affects not only the person with the disability but family and friends as well. It becomes a dividing line of before and after and requires any number of adjustments physically, emotionally and psychologically.
Usually when people hear the word “disability,” they think of physical disabilities. Many are born with physical disabilities and grow up dealing with the limitations they place on their activities and life choices. Others may start life as most everyone else but become disabled due to an illness or an accident. Physical disabilities may range from a stiff joint to major body trauma that puts the individual into a wheelchair. Physical disabilities vary widely, but all have the effect of putting limitations on the person with the disability. Some may not be able to tie a shoe. Others may not be able to reach down to even put on the shoe, but may learn to do so do by using special dressing aids. Still others are limited to the point of needing assistance with the most basic of human needs.
Physical limitations, especially, when the individual has not always been disabled, affects a person emotionally. Those healing from an injury or illness, especially when it results in a lifetime impairment, deal with the emotional side of realizing they may never be able to swing a bat, run a race, walk or even dress themselves again. Depression, anger and blame are all effects of a disability and vie for time and consideration. Negative emotions must be dealt with in order to move on and to gain a foothold on healing physically as well as emotionally. How a person deals with the realities of the situation plays a part in living life to the fullest, even with limitations.
Those with disabilities often feel they are no longer whole, that they are somehow “less than,” because they can no longer be what they once were or do what they once could. Those whose lives revolved around a certain activity, such as football, in which they can no longer participate may feel life is no longer worth living. Disabilities affect how a person views herself and plays a part in how hard that person will work to overcome that disability or in channeling that passion in other healthy directions.
Disabilities affect how a person is viewed by his community, his family and his friends. A disability may make others uncertain of how to approach or interact with the disabled person. Friendships and other relationships may be a casualty for a person already struggling with learning how to live with his new limitations. This is especially true if the person with the disability remains angry and pushes others away instead of allowing them to assist and “be there” for him. Another more positive effect of a disability, especially one from illness or accident, is when it pulls a community together in support.