A Voice for All: Cultural Beliefs Towards Disabilities


Words by Jahmeelah Gamble

Why do you think people are born with or acquire a disability? Do you think it’s a case of misfortune? A hidden blessing or a curse? I myself do not have a reason. Obviously genetics play a large role in certain diagnosis but that isn’t always the case.

When I first started working in this field, I never considered how different cultures may view disabilities. I did learn in college that certain ethnic groups chose to end the lives of anyone born with a disability as they believed they wouldn’t have anything to offer society. Today, that action would be considered inhumane but even though cultural attitudes have evolved, certain aspects have remained the same.

Speaking to some clients I work closely with, I was curious to know how they initially felt when they found out their child had a disability. The one word that came up was denial and to be honest, some of them still feel that the diagnosis isn’t true at all. “These doctors are wrong! This type of thing never happens back home!” I found myself unsurprised when they shared their feelings with me. You see, in some cultures/religions, people believe that children born with a disability are cursed. Remember, people with disabilities were not only permanently removed from society, but from people’s minds and hearts. Fast forward to today, we still have families who feel embarrassed, ashamed or disgusted by their child’s presence. Their family members may choose to avoid the child or the entire family all together. They wonder what they did wrong and what things they can start doing immediately to make their child seem normal.


Why haven’t we helped our relatives and others in our community realize the beauty that still remains within their child? If we aren’t making an effort now, how do we expect future generation to change their perspectives?

In some cases, families from some cultures may worry that having a disabled child will affect the marriage prospects of other family members, especially daughters. I would like to make note that I am not singling out any particular culture or religion’s attitude or beliefs towards disabilities. As always, I encourage you to do your research. If you are interested in learning more about how to educate others about developmental/intellectual/physical disabilities, feel free to visit sites like kidsnewtocanada.ca for more information.

As you continue to read my articles and research topics on your own, you are actively participating in the AVFA movement. You’d be surprised what happens when one person starts to make a difference.

Stay well and stay positive.

Photo credits
Lead image courtesy of hrc.co.nz

IMG_7918About Jahmeelah Gamble 
Jahmeelah Gamble is host of Rogers TV A Voice For All, community advocate and an Educational Resource Facilitator for the Peel District School Board, among other community roles. Passionate about finding a voice for all people with all disabilities, Gamble also promotes health and wellness as a certified Group Fitness Instructor and is the co-founder of EmpowerMe Fitness and Education. Check out her website here and connect with her viaTwitter and Facebook

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