Impaired is not Disabled
This Sunday we are remembering those who are no longer able to have full control over all their faculties, and are restrained to a greater or lesser extent in exercising some physical or sensory functions. The official description of disability accorded us is demeaning and prejudicial in its determining by implication that we are useless and can no longer play a meaningful role in society.
I speak in the plural because it was my misfortune eleven years ago to fracture my neck in a cycling accident. This leaves me with a number of handicaps that are restraining me in some activities and subjecting me to discomfort with a reduction in my enjoyment of life. Notwithstanding these impairments I am trying to compensate with greater effort in areas where I am still able to attain outcomes in competition with fully enabled individuals. There are many outstanding examples of high achievers, who attribute their success to an impairing setback in their lives stating that in the event of a normal life they would not have made the greater effort required.
Admittedly the early realisation after an adverse event of an irreversible condition can be temporarily devastating, particularly where continuing pain and ongoing treatment is concerned. It invariably leads to a lot of self examination. Was the accident or debilitating illness avoidable, did the professional treatment suffice and have all available remedies been fully exploited?
We also have to consider the effects on those closest and dearest to us. The demands in terms of special care, patience and understanding are immeasurable and play an important role in the rehabilitation and life style changes of the affected family member. I would like us to also pay tribute to them who unselfishly adjust their lives to ours, frequently involving new learning, understanding and skills. We all live in an increasingly risky environment with corresponding harmful consequences for those of us unfortunate enough to suffer a permanent impairment. With ready access to emergency and treatment services and expectations of ongoing improvements in rehabilitation we cannot ignore the cost of professional intervention and social services. It is therefore befitting to also acknowledge today the contribution of skilled personnel in our ambulance, emergency and restorative health services who deal on a daily basis with the trauma of accidental and illness caused impairment.
But over all let us remember that to be impaired does not necessarily mean disabled.