It is commonly assumed that traditional prejudices towards persons with disabilities are receding in light of urbanization, education, mass media and efforts to confront such prejudice and stigma by governments, disability advocates and civil society. Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by many African countries is considered an additional impetus for change. The aim of this website is to dispel the myths by providing facts about disability.
General misconceptions about disability
Myth 1: Disability and other conditions like Epilepsy are caused by evil spirits
Fact: This is false - read about causes in our conditions and impairments sections
Myth 2: Learning difficulties and mental health conditions can be caused by a curse or a wrong doing in the family or witchcraft.
Fact: This is false - most disabilities are either congenital or acquired through disease, injury or other health conditions. Associating disability with a wrong doing in the family or curse stigmatises the whole family and may result in the exclusion of the person with disability.
Myth 3: Disability conditions can be cured by witchdoctors.
Fact: There is no scientific evidence to support this and the process may subject the person with disability to more harm.
Myth 4: You can catch a disability by touching a person with a disability.
Fact: This is false - disability conditions are not contagious. If this was true all the family members of the person with a disability would have the disability as well.
Myth 5: Touching a disabled person brings bad luck
Fact: This is false - people with disabilities are just like all other human beings.
Myth 6: Concoctions made from the body parts of people with albinism make you rich.
Fact: This is false - people with albinism do not possess special powers or superhumanism.
Myth 7: People with disabilities are still not recognised as fully human
Fact: The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) sets out what human rights mean in the context of disability. The first human rights treaty of the twenty-first century, it represents a major step towards realising the right of disabled people to be treated as full and equal citizens. By ratifying the CRPD Kenya is committed to promoting and protecting the full enjoyment of human rights by disabled people and ensuring they have full equality under the law.
Myths and Facts about People with Disabilities (PwDs)
The greatest barriers that people with disabilities face begin with people’s attitudes — attitudes often rooted in misinformation and misunderstandings about what it’s like to live with a disability.
Myth 1: People with disabilities are brave and courageous.
Fact: Adjusting to a disability requires adapting to a lifestyle, not bravery and courage.
Myth 2: All persons who use wheelchairs are chronically ill or sickly.
Fact: The association between wheelchair use and illness may have evolved through hospitals using wheelchairs to transport sick people. A person may use a wheelchair for a variety of reasons, none of which may have anything to do with lingering illness.
Myth 3: Wheelchair use is confining; people who use wheelchairs are “wheelchair-bound.”
Fact: A wheelchair, like a bicycle or a vehicle, is a personal assistive device that enables someone to get around.
Myth 4: All persons with hearing disabilities can read lips.
Fact: Lip-reading skills vary among people who use them and in some circumstances are never entirely reliable.
Myth 5: People who are blind acquire a “sixth sense.”
Fact: Although most people who are blind develop their remaining senses more fully, they do not have a “sixth sense.”
Myth 6: People with disabilities are more comfortable with “their own kind.”
Fact: In the past, grouping PwDs in separate schools and institutions reinforced this misconception. Today, many people with disabilities take advantage of new opportunities to join mainstream society.
Myth 7: People without disabilities are obligated to “take care of” people with disabilities.
Fact: Anyone may offer assistance, but most PwDs prefer to be responsible for themselves.
Myth 8: Curious children should never ask people about their disabilities.
Fact: Many children have a natural, uninhibited curiosity and may ask questions that some adults consider embarrassing. But scolding curious children may make them think having a disability is “wrong” or “bad.” Most PwDs won’t mind answering a child’s question.
Myth 9: The lives of people with disabilities are totally different than the lives of people without disabilities.
Fact: PwDs go to school, get married, work, have families, do laundry, grocery shop, laugh, cry, pay taxes, get angry, have prejudices, vote, plan and dream like everyone else.
Myth 10: It is all right for people without disabilities to park in accessible parking spaces, if only for a few minutes.
Fact: Because accessible parking spaces are designed and situated to meet the needs of PwDs, these spaces should only be used by people who need them.
Myth 11: Most people with disabilities cannot have sexual relationships.
Fact: Anyone can have a sexual relationship by adapting the sexual activity. PwDs can have children naturally or through adoption. PwDs, like other people, are sexual beings.
Myth 12: People with disabilities always need help.
Fact: Many PwDs are independent and capable of giving help. If you would like to help someone with a disability, ask if he or she needs it before you act.
Myth 13: There is nothing one person can do to help eliminate the barriers confronting people with disabilities.
Fact: Everyone can contribute to change. You can help remove barriers by:
- Understanding the need for accessible parking and leaving it for those who need it
- Encouraging participation of PwDs in community activities by using accessible meeting and event sites
- Understanding children’s curiosity about disabilities and people who have them
- Advocating a barrier-free environment
- Speaking up when negative words or phrases are used about disability
- Writing producers and editors a note of support when they portray someone with a disability as a “regular person” in the media
- Accepting PwDs as individuals capable of the same needs and feelings as yourself, and hiring qualified PwDs whenever possible
Harmful Beliefs relating to Disability
A number of factors can contribute to the formation and perpetuation of negative beliefs about disability.
► Lack of understanding and awareness of disability.
► Misconceptions or social constructions concerning the causes of disabilities.
► Ill-informed and insensitive media coverage that perpetuates negative views.
► Reinforcement of prejudice and fears through law and policy that may affirm harmful beliefs about disability.
Read about these and more in: Toolkit on disability for Africa: Cultures-Beliefs-Disability.