Before I came to work here at the Reeve Foundation, I was someone who was afraid to even make eye contact with anyone in a wheelchair. Mostly out of fear of saying something stupid and embarrassing myself. I remember the first time I was asked to help someone in a chair transfer from that chair. My heart was racing, I wasn't sure how to touch him, I didn't know what to expect.
My ignorance was showing. And that is all that it is. Fear of the unknown and too afraid to find out. Happily, after five years, I've learned. Like Dana Reeve reminded her husband just after his accident -- You're still you.
To help combat the ignorance we asked individuals living with paralysis to tell us the myths and stereotypes that, in their experience, people have pushed into them. Then we did a very unscientific poll asking them to rank the list.
Our hope is to educate and further the discussion among the general public about just who are the people living with paralysis. There are glimpses available in the media like The Intouchables
, Push Girls
, Ali Stroker in The Glee Project
(pictured), Eric LeGrand at the ESPYs
, and the upcoming London Paralympics
(August 29 - September 9, 2012), but what about the person down the block?
Here are the results to our question along with some of the commentary from our community:
What is the # 1 myth you think the general public believes about individuals living with paralysis?
1. Not interested or can't have sex. (19.0%)
Yes, somethings still work. - Chill
2. Life must be so sad. (18.0%)
A lot of peple think that we are not suppose to be intelligent, productive people who enjoy living a full life doing those very same things that people who are not paralyzed like to do. We work, fall in love, get married and raise a family, we have a social life,
yes we do enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. - Marva
3. Number one wish is to walk. (14.8%)
Every opportunity I get I let people know that paralysis is so much more than not walking. Yes, I tell them I can't poop or pee on my own...to complete strangers but they need to know!!! - Wheelchair Mama
4. Mind must not work either. (13.0%)
People seem to automatically associate impaired physical function with a mental deficiency. I often meet their comments with: "I broke my spine, not my mind." - Catherine
5. Must not have any pain. (9.9%)
People think, well your paralyzed that means you can't feel anything how could you possibly have pain? (My husband) lives with indescribable nerve pain, the worst in his hands and in his feet and butt. - Susan
6. Unable to have a successful career/family/life. (9.2%)
So many people want to blow sunshine up our a**es, or, want to believe that we are bitter if we don't have hope of ever walking again. But in reality, many of us have come to terms with our respective situations and have chosen to make the best of it. - CJohn
7. Only medical problem is the paralysis. (8.8%)
There is significant neuropathic pain, bowel and bladder control, fighting with insurance companies, reduced energy, changed relationships, loss of independence, lack of access to our homes an no financial help for needed accessibility adaptions or exercise equipment, increased infections (especially UTIs)' and lack of appropriate sensation that allows for some spectacular accidents (and AD). - Shel
8. Have all expenses paid by the government. (3.9%)
"So, how do you get by? Social Security?" Yeah, because we, as individuals, are part of a disadvantaged minority group, we all must either be on the government dole, or looking for a handout. And because the former must be true, we all must be liberals. - CJohn
9. Always want help. (3.5%)
No matter what an #### someone is, I should alway's be nice and gratefully for any unwanted help I get! - Ben
All of the above are myths, some are just more pervasive.
If you want to read some of the discussion about these myths have a look here
If you're living with parlaysis, you can still take the poll
Join our community.