What Would Happen If You Became Disabled?
Disability is a strangely hidden fact of life.
00:09 24 September 2021
Despite the fact that a quarter of American adults have some kind of disability, far fewer explicitly identify in that way and, socially, we’ve normalized some disabilities – like needing glasses – while failing to include others.
So, what would happen if you became disabled? Most people never really consider this, but here’s a snapshot of life with various kinds of disabilities and the changes you might have to make to adjust.
We all need support from friends and family, no matter our life circumstances, but when someone acquires a disability, people often fall away, even though their support is needed more than ever. If you’re struggling with your health, consider this your opportunity to reckon with who is really there for you, and whose love and friendship is contingent on your “normalcy.” Build your support network and remember that, while your life and abilities have changed, there are still ways you can be present to those around you in a reciprocal relationship.
If you developed a physical disability and could no longer climb stairs or had to use a wheelchair to get around, would your home be accessible? The answer is almost certainly no. Accessible housing is in short supply, and modifications can be extremely expensive.
Consider evaluating your home now to see who it welcomes and who it excludes. Even if you don’t need your home to have a ramp or wider doorways, slowly making changes or investing in items like portable ramps can help you welcome more people into your life.
Many disabled people live below the poverty line because the maximum monthly payments for individuals who haven’t earned many work credits or who worked low-wage jobs before becoming disabled are shockingly low.
Additionally, to qualify for programs like SSI, you can’t have more than about $2,000 in savings or assets. Long-term disability policies, like those from Breeze, can help you better protect your income if you are currently well-employed, replacing as much as 60-80% of your pre-disability income. This is far more than public safety net programs and can be life-changing in terms of your post-disability financial conditions.
Another challenge many disabled people face involves simply getting around. Is your current vehicle large enough to carry a wheelchair – even a power wheelchair? Could you still drive it? Making vehicle modifications can be costly, and many people with disabilities require entirely different vehicles.
Alternatively, while some people with disabilities opt to take public transit when possible, that can pose problems since buses have limited accessible seating, ramps may be broken, and many subway stations don’t have elevators. Meanwhile, if you are eligible for local paratransit services, you’ll have to schedule rides in advance and can struggle with making it to appointments, as the system is not very efficient.
Not every disability is visible or even meaningfully life-changing; you can be born with a disability that you easily adapt to such that others don’t think of you as disabled – or maybe you don’t even think of yourself as disabled. Many people who come to disability later in life due to illness may think of themselves as sick rather than disabled or have anxiety around that label, but ultimately, the term has more to do with social identification than with physical abilities.
We all inhabit different bodies with varying needs and access is a human right. Yet, when you start rethinking your own life through this lens, it suddenly becomes clear just how inaccessible the world is. What will you do to change that – for yourself and for those around you?