A physical disability is something that limits one’s ability to function. According to a recent study done by Statistics Canada, nearly 14% of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 currently live with some form of disability. Some of the tip disabilities identified by this study include visual and hearing impairment, mobility disabilities, and dexterity disabilities.
When we think of the word “disability,” many often correlate that with being in a wheelchair/handicapped, or being unable to take care of oneself – such as taking their daily hygiene, eating, etc. – or other kinds of physical barriers. While this is true in many cases, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, British Columbia who practices at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, notes that being disabled has a much broader meaning, and over the years it has become much less of a taboo subject for individuals to openly discuss. For example, there are also many other types of disabilities that one can be faced with. These include learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, as well as mental/psychological disabilities. Fatigue and chronic pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia and migraines, are very common and are also now recognized as disabilities as they, too, can severely impact one’s ability to be able to carry out their normal day-to-day activities.
Disabilities can be caused by a number of factors. An individual can be born with a disability or pre-disposed to certain disabilities if there is a family history of them. They can also be the result of trauma (i.e. a head injury), and in some cases the cause of a disability may be unknown.
When initially diagnosed with a disability, a patient may find it difficult to cope. It is important to have a good support system of friends and family, and to not be ashamed to ask for help if you need it. Joining a support group and talking to others who are or have experienced the same or similar things that you are going through may also help you have a better understanding of what it means to have a disability and leave you feeling less helpless.
Disability Alliance BC (formerly the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities) offers a number of helpful resources for individuals living with disabilities, including their Advocacy Access Program where they work to assist individuals in applying for disability benefits. You can find more information about Disability Alliance BC’s Advocacy Access Program as well as information on the other kinds of support and programs that they offer via their website at disabilityalliancebc.org.