The Simon Heng column

Before I became disabled I counselled people with alcohol problems.
Many people’s drink problems seemed to stem from unresolved issues
and the way they felt about themselves. Since I acquired my
disability I have met many disabled people who seem to struggle
with similar emotional and psychological difficulties, as I do

A large number of people I meet appear chronically angry, depressed
or fearful: some seem to be artificially cheerful, or defensive.
Many seem to be lacking in self-confidence, in their own ability to
make changes in their lives, feeling unable to plan a purposeful

The assistance offered these days is extensive and expensive – even
though many of us think we get the bare minimum. Adaptive equipment
and personal care, benefits and allowances, adaptations to our
homes as well as good medical care mean we can survive. The
Disability Discrimination Act 1995 means that we can demand equal
civil rights. But none of this can solve an individual’s
difficulties in coming to terms with their disability, and their
feelings about their relationship with the rest of the community.

Recent research at the University of Missouri has shown that there
is a significant effect upon people’s ability to plan for the
future when they acquire a disability. Erin Martz hypothesises that
“shock, anxiety, denial, depression, internalised anger, and
externalised hostility related to experiencing a traumatic event
will be negatively related to future time orientation and that
acknowledgment and adjustment will be positively related to future
time orientation”. Meaning, I guess, that people who acquire a
disability often experience something like post-traumatic stress

In my experience, the neglected areas in the disability field are
an appreciation of the need for psychological help in
rehabilitation and helping disabled children to independence.
People are assessed for physical and social needs, but until they
are helped to resolve their emotional needs as disabled people,
many will never get close to achieving their potential.

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