Living with a physical disability

Living with a physical disability can be difficult at times. It’s worth addressing the things you feel and even seeking support. There are also things you can do that might make life easier, particularly when you first find out you have a disability. It's important to know your rights regarding discrimination. There are many services which provide support for people with disabilities, so make sure you get the benefit of personalised assistance.

This might help if you:

  • Have a physical disability
  • Know someone with a physical disability
  • Have recently acquired a physical disability
Girl in wheelchair talking to a boy

Things you might feel

Having a disability can be a huge challenge and might mean having to make changes to many aspects of your life. It might mean having to find alternative ways to achieve your goals (or making new ones).

There are a number of things you might feel when you first find out you have a disability. It’s not always easy to accept the challenges that having a disability can bring.

Feelings and reactions noted by people with physical disability include:

  • Anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Shock
  • Frustration
  • Denial

Things you can do

Understandably, it can be frustrating and overwhelming to understand why you have to deal with something that can be so difficult and seem so unfair.

What helps others manage it?

  • Support - don't be afraid to ask for support, whether it’s from a mate, a family member, or a counsellor. Asking for a bit of support doesn't mean you're weak or a failure; it's a sign of strength and of knowing your limits. It might help to ask whether your doctor has had training for both the physical and mental aspects of disabilities.
  • Try and be patient - finding yourself disabled can be frustrating, and often means that you have to be more dependent on other people. As they adapt to their physical disability over time, people tend to feel more confident in their ability to cope.
  • Get informed - as with chronic illnesses, having a good understanding of your disability can help you learn to accept it. Knowing what to expect of yourself and your abilities can take some of the anxiety away and help you manage.
  • Take care of yourself - eat well and try to engage in some form of movement. Do something for yourself each day, even if it's just watching your favourite TV show. Remember that disabilities shouldn’t define your life or your enjoyment – work with what you’ve got.

Dealing with discrimination

Disability discrimination basically refers to being treated less fairly than a person without a disability and is entirely against the law. Discrimination can happen at work, uni, school or anywhere where there’s potential for you to be excluded.

If you are experiencing discrimination there are things you can do:

  • Get informed - check out the Australian Human Rights Commission's website to know your rights and what your options are for fighting it.
  • Take action - Tell or write to your manager or the person in charge about what is happening. Keep a journal to record events.
  • Get support - Tell someone you trust about what is happening and take them with you when reporting the discrimination.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 21 August, 2015
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