People First

Stereotypes, Myths & Facts

Stereotypes are commonly formed when we have little or no information about groups of people who are different from ourselves and our peer groups. Unfortunately, stereotypes tend to be negative and derogatory in nature. Stereotypes have been created for just about every group of people in our society; women, blondes, people who are gay, people of various ethnic or cultural backgrounds, and of course, people with disabilities.

Take a moment to think about possible stereotypes centered on people with disabilities. Which ones can you think of?

Some common stereotypes include:

  • They are stupid.
  • They are lazy.
  • They are strange.
  • They cannot speak for themselves.
  • They lead completely different lives than people who do not have disabilities.
  • They are more content with other people who also have disabilities.
  • They are deserving of pity.
  • They can’t do things for themselves.

These are some of the more common beliefs society tends to hold towards people with disabilities, but I’m sure you were able to think of some others. Notice in this list the use of the word “they.” “They” are strange. “They” are stupid. In this context, even the use of this word suggests separation from the norm. It implies an ‘us versus them’ mentality. Learning to avoid this type of language is an important step in respecting your fellow classmates with and without disabilities. To find out if you are currently holding on to any stereotypes or myths about people with disabilities, take a look at the following myths and facts.

Myth: Persons with disabilities are inspirational, courageous, and brave for being able to overcome their disability. 
Fact: Persons with disabilities do not want to be viewed this way. They are simply carrying on normal activities of living when they drive to work, go grocery shopping, pay their bills, or compete in athletic events.

Myth: Persons with disabilities need to be protected from failing. 
Fact: Persons with disabilities have a right to participate in the full range of human experiences including success and failure. Employers should have the same expectations of, and work requirements for, all employees.

Myth: The lives of people with disabilities are completely different than those without disabilities.
Fact: People with disabilities go to school, go to work, are involved in loving relationships, have families, shop, pay taxes, vote, and have similar dreams and desires to other people.

Myth: People who are blind have a sixth sense.
Fact: People with blindness may develop their remaining senses more highly than others, but they do not have a sixth sense.

Myth: People with disabilities have different goals than people without disabilities.
Fact: People with disabilities come from a wide range of social, cultural, and economic backgrounds, just like anybody else. Therefore, their goals are as varied and different as yours and mine.

Myth: People with disabilities have problems getting around. 
Fact: People with disabilities know what accommodations they need to get around and make use of them successfully. It’s only when attitudinal or architectural barriers get in the way that problems arise.

To examine more Myths and Stereotypes visit the following website:

Learn more about Myths about people with disabilities that relate to employment, housing, learning disabilities, mental illness, and special education.

Consider how you would feel if people held these beliefs about you, and write down your thoughts.