Do People “Suffer” From Disabilities?


I often hear people speak of those who “suffer from disabilities.” I intentionally try to avoid such language. I prefer to say “experience disabilities.”

Why? It is not because I am trying to be politically correct, it is because the phrase in question is not entirely correct.

Do people suffer from disabilities? Yes, there are many people who do suffer because of their disability. Some disabilities cause physical pain or other discomfort.

But disability should not be equated with suffering. A person with a disability may or may not experience suffering because of that disability. Many people with disabilities are quite content and satisfied with their lives.

Part of the reason we may tempted to use suffering language is the way we look at disabilities. We come at from the perspective of an able person imagining what it would be like to suddenly have that disability. The idea of losing our sight, our hearing, our speech or our mobility fills us with dread. We assume those with disabilities experience that same discomfort.

Again, they may or may not feel that. Part if it (but not all of it) depends on if they were born with or later acquired the disability. The problem is when we make assumptions about another person’s experience based on how we anticipate we would feel in the same circumstance.

The same principle that I try to get across in many of my posts applies here. Instead of assuming what another person experiences, take time to listen to and observe them. When in doubt, avoid the suffering language all together.

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