Help people see past your disability

What disability affects your life?
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What disability affects your life?

Is it visible or invisible?

I have the privilege of both. That's an unexpected thing to hear, huh? Allow me to explain.

The majority of my coaching clients with either ADHD or Dyslexia expend a lot of energy trying to make sure their disability remains undetected.

There were many years when I did this as well. It's a fear of criticism or rejection that drives this. After all, this wonderful "melting pot" society of ours still has a real problem with the idea of diversity, doesn't it?

The fear of being found out, as it were, also involves the fear that people will see your disability as the most essential thing about you. Therefore, they won't see anything of value beyond that. Yes?

Enter my physical disability. My Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome has progressed over the past 6 years or so and requires the use of a cane, walker or wheelchair depending on the day.

Yesterday was a wheelchair day, as my wife and I took the boys to the library and then to the local candy store.

As I approached the candy store, a kind gentleman was quick to hold the door for me so I could wheel in.

I was quick to look him in the eye and say, "Thank you Sir."

This is the most obvious contrast between visible and invisible disabilities. I can't hope my physical disability will go unnoticed. It's out there for the world to see.

I've seen people become uncomfortable with those who have physical disabilities because they haven't learned a social script for how to approach us.

So I've learned to take the lead in these matters. I've learned that the sooner I make them comfortable with me, the more quickly we connect on a human level and any disability becomes a secondary issue.

So what's the secret? Kindness.

When it comes to ADHD and Dyslexia, there's a strong emphasis on list making and other tactics that are important. I use many of them myself and rely on them heavily to organize my life and to be successful.

Hardly any emphasis is placed on the importance of relationships. Learning social strategies and building a quality support system so you can live as fully as possible with your disability. That's why I emphasize the relationship building piece so heavily in my coaching. If you have the right people around you, you can accomplish virtually anything in life.

I've become more kind over the years as my health issues have taught me greater humility and deepened my gratitude. Humility and gratitude are key to dissipating any resentment or defensiveness that may have built up in you over the years.

When you deepen your humility and gratitude, you develop a genuine appreciation for others. Everything they do for you, no matter how small, becomes worthy of a genuine "thank you" which includes a sincere smile.

When you learn to appreciate others more, a desire to be more helpful yourself emerges. You're inclined to compliment more, and do whatever you can to pay forward all the little moments of kindness you've been shown. There are more of these moments than you realize, once you let go of the resentment of needing the help in the first place.

I've realized that the more kind and helpful I become, the better I feel about myself and life in general.

People have also come to know me as someone who is kind, before they know me as someone with a disability.

Building your character and refining your mindset, are profoundly more valuable in living with a disability, than any accommodations could ever be.

You could have the best accommodations in the world, but still push people away with your attitude. Right?

Let's change that. Let's help you learn to be such an asset to their lives that they can't imagine life without you.