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The Team at ALSO

February 1, 2024

A developmentally disabled individual sitting in a wheelchair in his home.

5 Common Misconceptions About People with Disabilities

“There is no greater disability in society, than the inability to see a person as more.”

Robert M. Hensel, Poet-Writer

We all know the problem of assigning stereotypes to community members with disabilities. Still, the general public continues to make assumptions according to many misconceptions.

Darrin Barham has been ALSO Supported Living Services Director for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for 14 years. He’s proud to say that he and his team “Crush myths every day!” when it comes to proving what people with all types of disabilities can do as employees, neighbors, and independent members of their chosen communities.

Let’s discuss the top 5 misconceptions and myths that people with disabilities face (and why they even exist). In addition, we’ll provide facts on the incredible results when they are supported in reaching their full potential.

Why are There Misconceptions About People with Disabilities?

Misconceptions and negative attitudes about persons with disabilities have been around for decades, even centuries. Such assumptions are based on a lack of understanding and knowledge [1]. It has often been felt that those who are different from ‘the norm,’ are somehow inferior to the rest of us. In some cultures, people even believed that those with disabilities were somehow cursed [2].

This has resulted in stigma, or a set of negative and unfair beliefs [3]. Check out our list below of the top 5 most common myths and misconceptions about individuals with disabilities.

Top 5 Misconceptions About People with Disabilities

An intellectually disabled employee cleans roller skate rentals at a skating rink.

Myth # 1: Disability Means “No Ability”

Undoubtedly, one of the most common misconceptions is that those living with a disability are completely helpless and must always be cared for by others. This is likely one of the reasons why individuals, particularly with developmental and intellectual disabilities, were warehoused in large institutions for so many years.

Truth: People with disabilities take pride in caring for themselves and are quite capable of learning, working, and thriving. Just like the rest of us, they experience certain limitations and challenges, but also have many strengths [4].

Myth #2: Physical Disability also Means “Cognitive Impairment”

Those who have various physical disabilities are commonly assumed by the general population as having cognitive disabilities, such as poor memory, problem-solving, and learning disabilities.

Truth: Although many individuals have both physical and cognitive impairments, we should never make such assumptions. This misunderstanding often happens with individuals who have cerebral palsy. The word palsy specifically refers to lack of muscle control. Only about half of people with cerebral palsy have an intellectual disability [5].

Myth #3: People with Disabilities Cost Employers Too Much Money

Disability community advocates and self-advocates have been working to dispel this myth for decades. Even with the progress thus far, more improvements are needed to create increases in high-quality competitive employment.

Truth: According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), almost 50% of reasonable accommodations cost absolutely nothing! Over 40% cost an average of $300. JAN revealed many other positive effects of welcoming people with disabilities into the work environment [6]:

  • Improved employee retention
  • Decreased workers’ compensation costs.
  • Reduced training costs.
  • Improved productivity and morale.

LEARN MORE: The Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities.

Myth #4: All Disabilities Can be Seen

Millions of Americans have disabilities that we can’t even see. Although after getting to know the person, a disability might become more noticeable. These are called invisible disabilities [7].

Truth: There are many invisible disabilities:

  • Mental health conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety)
  • Autism
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Learning disabilities

It’s often difficult to understand the functional limitations related to invisible disabilities. Therefore, it’s important to avoid making assumptions about what someone can do, or how they might need help. If you aren’t sure of something, just ask!

Myth #5: People Who Use Wheelchairs Can’t Walk

Many people use wheelchairs only when they need them. Sometimes, they may be ‘accused of,’ ‘looking for sympathy,’ or ‘faking it’ [8].

Truth: There are several medical conditions (e.g. multiple sclerosis, spina bifida), in which the need for wheelchair use ebbs and flows. You might see the person also using another mobility device, such as a cane or walker.

LEARN MORE: Using Technology to Make Public Transportation More Accessible. [9]

How ALSO Makes an Impact

At ALSO, breaking down barriers that people with disabilities face is a common occurrence—and we are proud to do it! We actively facilitate disability rights and barrier-free environments for those we support through the following service models:

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  1. Disabled People’s International (n.d.) Myths and misconceptions abut people with disabilities. Together We Rock.
  2. Mayer, S. (2021, July 19). Destigmatizing disability. NCALL
  3. Encyclopedia Brittanica On-line.
  4. University of New Hampshire (n.d.) Misconceptions about disability.
  5. (Author). (2018, October 6). 6 Myths About Cerebral Palsy. Health Direct.
  1. (Author). (2023, May 4). Costs and benefits of accommodation.
  2. Eisenmenger, A. (2020, September 14). Five Things You didn’t know about invisible disabilities.,of%20those%20are%20invisible%20disabilities.
  3. (n.d.). 10 myths about disability.
  4. Waller, C. (2022, July 16). Accessibility Blog. Using technology to make public transportation more accessible.

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