Disability is often assumed to be a lifelong condition when in actual fact more than 80% of those with a disability were not born with it. Many become disabled later in life through illness, accident or because of a deteriorating medical condition. There’s no doubt that life will change significantly in many ways, but with the right support, it is possible to keep working, live in your own home and enjoy an independent life.
The psychological impact of becoming disabled is huge and this should never be neglected. It’s perfectly usual to feel anxious, depressed, confused or just plain frightened about your life in the future. Perversely, the last thing you want to do is contact organisations that may be able to help you; that’s an admission that you’re not ‘normal’. The last thing you want is to be confronted by people with the same condition as you; it would be like looking in a mirror when all you want to do is run away from your disability and carry on being the person that you were before.
In fact, chatting with people ‘in the same boat’ is one of the best ways of coping there is. Usually, a quick Google will put you in touch with the right organisation and your GP will also be able to give you the contact details of local groups and charities that can help.
The most important support networks you can have are your family and friends. Don’t forget that they too have to come to terms with your disability; don’t shut them out and try to cope on your own. It’s much better to talk things through with them; answer their questions and let them be a part of the process of change you are going through.
You should be able to remain living independently at home as long as you have the necessary practical help with day-to-day tasks. You may be entitled to financial assistance for such help through the benefits system or from social services. Special equipment, home adaptations and home-care visits to help with such things as personal hygiene, cleaning and shopping may all be included.
Contact social services through your local council and arrange for a visit to carry out a health and social care assessment. An occupational therapist will call to your home and they will provide you with a written care plan setting out what help you are entitled to based on their assessment.
Becoming disabled could mean a dramatic increase in your living costs and/or a significant reduction in your income if you are no longer able to work full time. This could entitle you to financial support in order to cover the additional costs arising as a direct result of your disability. Financial assistance could come in the form of funding for care assistants and equipment. Contact the benefits office for full details on what you are entitled to.
If you were disabled as a result of an accident at work or during active service in the armed forces, you may entitled to some financial compensation and a good solicitor will be able to advise you on this.
Your life with a disability will undoubtedly bring with it new challenges but it should not stop you from living a happy and fulfilling life.
There are many charities worldwide that provide support and practical information about employment for people with disabilities and the Paralympic sports profile has never been higher with dozens of clubs and groups springing up to cater for all kinds of disability sports.
It is also illegal for anyone to discriminate against you, just because you have a disability. Your rights are protected at work when it comes to initial recruitment, subsequent promotions, pay and conditions. Service providers like post offices, leisure clubs, shops etc are all legally obliged to make sure that they are accessible to you.
Your new disability does not mean that your life is over; it just means it’s going to be different from now on. Embrace the challenge; adapt and overcome.