Print this page

Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


The Disability Advantage

Tell a Friend

Living with a disability can turn out to be an advantage if you develop a mindset that focuses on your abilities, rather than the impossibilities, writes Robert Pearson.

Image: Could you view your disability to your advantage?

Image: Could you view your disability to your advantage?

Recently, I was traveling with my family on a trip that was to be both professional and personal. We were going to be away for quite a while, 20 days in total. We loaded up the car in the midst of a heavy snow storm. On arriving at the airport, we realized that the suitcase containing my three-year-old daughter’s clothes was still sitting at home in her playroom; she had rolled it there as we were leaving and we didn’t even notice.

We had time. We quickly devised a plan whereby my wife and daughter would proceed through to the gate and I would head back home in a taxi to retrieve the bag. The round trip would take an hour. In a snow storm, it could be longer. With a bit of luck and an intrepid driver, I did make it and returned to the airport with very little time to spare. The line at the security was long and I needed to find a way to jump the queue.

As you may have read in my previous posts, I have a physical disability in my left hand that leaves it with a withered look. You may have read one of my recent posts, “Persons with Disabilities Can Help Change Historical Perceptions of What Constitutes as Normal” that spoke about how disconcerting it is for some people who may see my disability. I found myself standing outside of security and decided that the way to jump the queue was in fact to head to the line located off to the side where persons with disabilities queue up along with families with small children.

While my disability doesn't physically prevent me from standing in the normal line, in my time of need I had to use my disability to my advantage. I approached and simply presented my hand front and centre at the check point to indicate that I wanted to choose this particular line for disability and they ushered me through, not wanting to question my obvious impairment. 

In the end, I did make it to the gate on time, much to my wife's relief and off we went. However, it occurred to me later, whether it was ethical of me to have stood in the “special” line. Was it wrong to use my disability to my advantage? I have to admit that it wasn't the first time I have leveraged my disability in such a fashion. 

Hypothetically, wouldn’t you do the same if you were to gain from it?

Can it be that to have a disability is an advantage in this regard? Certainly, depending on the extent of one's impairment there would be highly varying opinions. However, if having a disability leads to our issues, accomplishments and opinions being discussed and highlighted across important surfaces, including the media, then there is something valuable to gain from the experience.

If persons with a disability adopt the perspective that their lives are important and of interest, rather than lives which are construed to be lacking in some fashion, then it may be possible to leverage that advantage to advance not only their own, but also the interests of others with differing abilities.

If you visit Accessible Media Inc’s Twitter feed, you'll begin to get an understanding of what I mean. We pull relevant media articles of interest each and every day that in some way reflect disability, accessibility, inclusion, and technology, and many other topics. Everybody loves a good story about a young child with a disability and the learning tool on their iPad they utilize for their everyday communications and development. What I'm getting at is that the media will always cover any number of different elements of accessibility and disability because they are interesting to the reader. They are something different than the norm.

At AMI, we strive to bring that understanding to the forefront. As we develop a landscape of accessible media, in the interests of our audience, we endeavour to promote this degree of inclusion. There can be an advantage to having a disability, but it requires a mindset to focus on the benefits and be proud of what can be accomplished with the abilities we do have.


Related Resources

Blog: Marketing to Persons with Disabilities is a Business Advantage | Read Debra Ruh's Blog.

Publication: ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework | Download Free PDF.

Event: 6th International Conference on Disabilities: Unity & Diversity in Action | View Event Details.