Tom Shakespeare offers suggestions for better understanding the “disability paradox,” the raft of survey findings revealing that people with disabilities “consistently report a quality of life as good as, or sometimes even better than, that of non-disabled people”:
To start with, we can offer more nuanced accounts of the psychological processes that go on in the mind of a person with disability. Adaptation means finding another way to do something. For example, the paralysed person might wheel, rather than walk, to, places. Coping is when people gradually re-define their expectations about functioning. They decide that a stroll of half a mile is fine, whereas previously they would only have been content with a 10-mile ramble. Accommodation is when someone learns to value other things – they decide that rather than going for walks in the country with friends, it’s far more important to be able to go to great restaurants with them. This teaches us an important lesson – human beings are capable of adapting to almost any situation, finding satisfaction in the smaller things they can achieve, and deriving happiness from their relationships with family and friends, even in the absence of other triumphs.
Our appraisal of life with impairment may have less to do with reality than with fear and ignorance and prejudice. We wrongly assume that difficulties for people result in misery for people.