Kathy Bates
a caricature of Kathy Bates, a woman with blond hair in a wheel chair answering emails with a light bulb above her head

Dear Kathy,

Why is the physical disability community largely silent on the role of trauma (i.e., the symptoms and experiences from being blamed, denigrated, or emotionally ignored by family . . . the "stuff" of complex PTSD)?

It is as though "success" in the physical disability world comes from "overcoming" challenges. Folks with very real physical disabilities are ostracized by folks with the same disabilities if they speak to the verbal/emotional abuse and scapegoating they experienced while growing up.

I grew up with this. My first two adult friends with disabilities had families that openly denigrated them. I also have taught school for many decades and saw child abuse much more prevalent among the children with disabilities. Who within the disability community is speaking out on how trauma affects folks with disabilities?


Special Educator

Dear Special Educator,

Thank you very much for bringing this issue forward. First, I think it is hard for anyone to openly discuss the very personal issue of abuse and the trauma that often comes with it. But I do think it is especially difficult for people with disabilities to discuss these issues when their family members are often a huge part of their support circle.

Finding good, reliable direct support professionals (DSPs) could resolve most of this problem. However, the DSP shortage has reached a crisis level across the nation. Agencies that provide services are not offering enough incentives for people to apply for these crucial support jobs. Unfortunately, many people do not see them as viable careers. This is likely due to poor wages and a lack of value-based training. If family members could be relieved of a least some of their direct care responsibilities, then they could just be . . . family (which is hard enough sometimes).

It is important that people with disabilities understand their rights, especially if they are not feeling safe.

Disability should not be seen as something that needs to be overcome. It should be seen as a natural part of diversity. Success, in my opinion, is doing the best you can every day and knowing how to get help when you need it. This is a definition of success that can work for anyone, not just those of us who have a disability label.

For more information on protecting rights and preventing abuse of people with disabilities, please visit this link from the Administration for Community Living (ACL): https://bit.ly/322ISz5