Being mental impairment that substantially limits one


AyetorYeshivaUniversity            INTRODUCTIONThis paper will befocusing on some of the challenges person’s with disability face. ‘Anindividual with a disability is defined by the Americans with Disability Act asa person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits oneor more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such animpairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment'(U.S. Department of Justice, 2009). Oftentimes people with some form ofdisability are treated as inferior to others because they lack the ability todo certain major things that others can. Although they are limited in someways, that does not make them any less human than the rest of us. For us tobetter understand what makes them who they are, we have to consider them interms of factors in their environmental press. There’s more to a person thantheir abilities or disabilities and it is important in dealing with a client,to understand that we need to treat the disability as part of who they are andnot who they are in totality.

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I’ll use a client of mine, Mrs. Thompson (not herreal name) as a case study. PartIPersons with disabilitieshave often suffered stigmatization and discrimination.

This attitude towardsthem is one of the many challenges to their development that they have to faceevery day of their lives. Achieving social equality for people with disabilityis an arduous task because of the many myths and negative attitudes people havetowards them (Zheng et al, 2016) According to a reportby the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one billion people in theworld live with some form of disability and 200 million of these peopleencounter some considerable difficulties in their everyday functioning.  Due to stigmatization and discriminationbased on their disability, many persons with disability are denied ‘equalaccess to health care, education, and employment opportunities, do not receivethe disability-related services that they require, and experience exclusionfrom everyday life activities’ (World Health Organization, 2011). One very notable point thatthe WHO also mentions in their report is the fact that a person’s environment playsan important role in the type of experiences they have as well as the ‘extentof disability.

‘ When the environment is inaccessible, barriers to participationas well as inclusion are created (World Health Organization, 2011). The InternationalClassification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF), developed by theWorld organization put the factors of the environment that impact a person withdisability under these major categories; the natural environment; the socialenvironment (made up of family and close relationships); attitudes broughtabout by culture and social norms towards persons with disability as well associal structure and institutions (WHO, 2001). Just like Garbarino’senvironmental press, the ICF states that all the components of one’senvironment have an impact on the development of a person with a disability.

‘Environmentalpress variables include the person’s home environment, their social environment,and even their neighborhood environment. The fit between a person’s level ofcompetencies and the demands from their environment affect how well anindividual is functioning’ (Garbarino, 1992). TheIssueMy client, Mrs.Thompson is a 65-year-old person with a disability.

At the age of 18, she lostboth of her legs in an accident. She has despite her disability been able toget an education and was gainfully employed as an editor in a very prestigiouspublishing agency. However, just like many persons with disability, she hasover the course of her life suffered a lot of stigmatization anddiscrimination, although sometimes subtle and unintended, due to her disability.Recently, she retired and decided to find housing close to her only daughter sothat they could spend more time together. This has proven to be almostimpossible because most of the houses in this neighborhood are not particularlymade to be accessible to someone with a disability such as hers. She is leftwith the options of moving farther away than she would like to or moving into oneof the houses closer to her daughter and employing the help of someone to helpher move around the house safely. This is an example of how a person’s physicaland social environment can affect the opportunities they have to participate in’normal’ everyday life. The environmental press theory focuses the physical,interpersonal, or social demands that the environment put on people.

Thisexperience portrays what Zheng et al. (2016) meant when they talk about personswith disability being unable to achieve social equality because of thediscrimination against them, intentional or not. How are they supposed to fitinto society when such barriers still exist? BiologicalInfluencesMrs. Thompson was anable-bodied child until the accident which resulted in the loss of both of herlegs. Because of her physical disability, Mrs. Thompson has some limitations onwhat she can and cannot do. The loss of her legs has obviously resulted inlimitations on her mobility. She can move about with the aid of a wheelchairbut that obviously comes with its own limitations.

Her disability has alsoaltered her physical appearance. Also being disabled aswell as a being a female also further complicates her issues. According to areport by the United Nations (UN), ‘women with disabilities face significantlymore difficulties…in attaining access to adequate housing, health, education,vocational training and employment’ (UN, 2017).PsychologicalInfluences            People with disabilities such as myclient are often treated as less intelligent.

Mrs. Thompson was able to get aneducation despite her disability. What most people don’t understand is thatphysical disability does not translate to intellectual disability. And so shewas bullied a lot in school just for being there and her intellectual abilitieswere questioned.

For a person with disability,not being able to do basic things for themselves can lead to frustration and ageneral feeling of helplessness. Mrs. Thompson for one has always felt like aburden to her mother and brother who were her primary caregivers, to herteachers, and anybody who has had to take over the role of a caregiver in herlife. She wishes she could be more independent. She always felt left outbecause she could not be involved activities that her peers had the opportunityto be involved in and always felt inadequate. As if that were not enough, shewas always stared at and people made it a point to remind her that she wasdifferent and this affected her psychologically.

The attitude that persons withdisability have towards their own disability is influenced greatly by theirsocial interaction with others (Zheng et al, 2016). SociologicalInfluencesSociological influencesmay include cultural, religious, political and economic factors. Mrs. Thompson grewup around a very supportive family. Although she did not have a lot of friends,her family was her support system.

When she almost quit college at some pointbecause of the difficulties she faced, her mother encouraged her not to defineher worth by her disability or others perception of her but to prove that shewas just as capable of achieving all that they could despite her disability. Itis very important to note that, for Mrs. Thompson, she believes she made itthis far in life because she had a very strong support system that did not seeher disability as a disadvantage.

  She wasalso brought up as a staunch Catholic and she believes this is what influencesmost of her decisions as well as her self-image and perception of others.  Mrs. Thompson wasfortunate enough to come from an affluent home and therefore did not face anylimitations that the lack of economic resources can present in the developmentof a person with disability. Her family could afford and provide all theassistive devices that she needed to be able to attain some level ofindependence. A typical example ofpolitical influences on Mrs.

Thompson’s development is the passage of the Americanwith Disability Act (ADA) of 1990 which addressed some of the needs of people withdisabilities, and sought to prohibit the discrimination that they face in somefacets of their lives such as education, public services, employment as well asaccommodation (ADA, 1990). Most times, people with disability have to deal withhow others react to their disability which, more often than not, is negative.They have to endure the discrimination and stigmatization in their workplacesand other social environments. My client, for instance, has to endure the inadequateaccommodation circumstances being presented to her because she has no otheroptions.

Someone neglected the needs of people with disability and she has topay for it.  PartIIHuman behavior cannotjust be understood from one context. Many factors work interchangeably toimpact and shape the behavior of a person and their development. Before comingto WSSW, my perception of persons with disability was purely biological.

Ialways thought that were defined only by the biological influences on theirdevelopment. However, in my study of the human behavior in the socialenvironment, I’ve come to understand that there are many dimensions to aperson, and that to better understand who a person is and what makes them whothey are and what defines them, we have to consider all the various influencesin their environment such the physical environment, biological, psychologicaland sociological influences. We cannot claim to fully understand who a personis without considering all the interwoven dimensions involved in theirdevelopment (Hutchison, 2015)I’ve learned thatPersons with disability are not to be defined by their disability and that thedisability is just a part of who they are.

PartIIIConsidering theenvironmental press as described by Garbarino, I do see influences in my owndevelopment that I had prior to taking this course not considered. I had alwaysbeen of the belief that we all come hard wired and destined to be who we are.However, now I have a better understanding of the cultural, social, political,psychological influences on our development that shape us into who we eventuallybecome. Our ‘self’ as we know it keeps changing over time because of the new experiencesthat we go through. The impact of thefamily on development is crucial. As stated in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systemstheory, the family forms part of our microsystem which happens to be ourclosest and immediate environment and therefore has the most influences on ourdevelopment.

After taking this course, I’m now able to identify that certainbeliefs and character traits that I have are greatly based on influences frommy family. According to Dr. Murray Bowen who propelled the family systemstheory, we cannot be understood without being considered as part of our familybecause families are interconnected individuals. We are impacted by our familywhile also exerting our own influence on our family. Also in my study, I’vecome to understand that trauma has a powerful influence on a person’sdevelopment but our ability to adapt and show resilience in the face of anytraumatic experience will determine how well we are able to bounce back andfunction as we develop. There are several factors that can help improve aperson’s ability to show resilience in the face of trauma.

Family, for instance,plays a very important role. Whether or not a person had a positive supportsystem growing up or a positive parent-child interaction, all contribute to their ability to be resilient. ‘Anindividual’s sense of control over their life and the traumatic experience inaddition to having a positive self-concept provides additional resiliency’ (Hollidayet al, 2014). The learning in HumanBehavior I has helped me to better understand myself as well as how to understanda client and what defines them. I never thought that my family system had animpact on my development until I took this course. ConclusionThis paper discusses theinfluence that the environment has on the development of persons with disability.It also points out some of the challenges that persons with disability face,particularly stigmatization and discrimination.

 Legislations such as the Americans with Disability Act have stressed theimportance of the environment in the development of a person with disabilityand have the aim of ensuring that they enjoy equal opportunity to participatein all dimensions of life and reasonable accommodation in the environment justas every other person would.       ReferencesEqual Employment Opportunity Commission. Americanswith Disability Act.

(1990).  retrievedfrom, J. (1992). Children and Families in theSocial Environment, 2nd edition.

New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Holliday RP, Clem MA, Woon FL and Surís AM. (2014).Developmental Psychological Trauma, Stress, and Revictimization: A Review ofRisk and Resilience Factors. Austin Journal of Psychiatry and BehavioralScience. Retrieved from

phpHutchison, ED (2015) Dimensions of Human Behavior:Person and Environment, (5th edition)California: Sage Publications.United Nations Convention on the Rights of Personswith Disabilities. (2006). Retrieved from https://www. Nations Division for Social Policy andDisability, (2017). Women and Girls with Disability. Retrieved from

htmlWorld Health Organization., & World Bank. (2011).Worldreport on disability. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization. Retrievedfrom http://www.who.

int/disabilities/world_report/2011/en/World Health Organization. (2001). InternationalClassification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).

Geneva: WorldHealth Organization. Retrieved fromhttp://www.who.

int/classifications/icf/en/Zheng, Q., Tian, Q., Hao, C., Gu, J., Tao, J.

,Liang, Z., … Hao, Y. (2016). Comparison of attitudes toward disability andpeople with disability among caregivers, the public, and people withdisability: findings from a cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health, 16,1024.

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