Ability, Disability or Differently-Abled? What’s Your Worldview?

We are more and more likely to encounter people who are different from us in some way. It could be physical, sexual orientation, gender, skin color, political or cultural. Or it could be with respect to what many consider ability or disability, or what we might call differently-abled.

Each of us, when we meet a person for the first time, initially responds to what we see on the outside of the person: physical stature, dress, and other elements of appearance. Without conscious awareness, we put people into worldview categories related to our personal perspectives regarding beauty, attractiveness and worth. 

What is your initial reaction when you see a person with a physical disability? Do you feel pity? Do you see beauty? Worthiness? If you are able bodied, are you glad it’s not you?

Have you ever noticed yourself making a value judgment when you see someone who has parked in an accessible parking space get out of their car and walk into a building with no apparent sign of disability? As an able-bodied person, how much thought do you give to building, sidewalk, roadway, trail or beach accessibility?

When you think about your future, are there things on your bucket-list that depend on your able-body-ness? When you see someone with a disability, do you pause and wonder how your hopes and dreams might change should you became disabled?

These questions were highlighted for us recently when a building we were hosting a program in claimed to be accessible. When a participant who uses a wheelchair showed up, it was apparent it was not truly welcoming or inclusive.  It required driving on a very narrow dirt road and coming in through the backdoor. In other words, accessibility was an afterthought.

We both have parents who have experienced decreasing physical ability as they have aged and, along with situations like that described above, we have had our worldviews expanded about what it’s like to navigate a world built through an able-bodied worldview perspective. We have been intrigued enough with the question we have built it into our new book, Building Trust and Relationship at the Speed of Change, as a story line to help readers become more aware of and examine their own worldviews on this and other topics.