Thursday, April 16, 2009

Aboriginal People with Disabilities

This is an assignment that I did for one of my classes at university.

  • In many aboriginal cultures, when a person has a disability they see it as evil or having an imbalance in a persons life.
  • Many aboriginal communities turn to their traditional ways to remove what they consider to be evil spells (disabilities) they believe that this will restore balance and harmony within a person.
  • Many aboriginal families encourage people with disabilities to be independent and make their own decisions and if they fail they bring them back into their family circle and their family welcomes them until they are ready to persevere in whatever they are trying to accomplish.
  • In many aboriginal cultures it depends on what type of disability a person has and how long you had it.
  • Some aboriginal cultures have more self determination than others this can have effect on the person with a disability.
  • Men with disabilities sometimes feel that they do not have an important role in their communities.
  • In some aboriginal communities men with disabilities are treated with more respect than women with disabilities.
  • Aboriginal women with disabilities are seen as inferior and they have low self esteem, because in the aboriginal communities women are responsible to mother children and if they can not do this they are looked at as damaged, therefore in the past aboriginal women with disabilities where forced to be sterilized.
  • Many aboriginal women with disabilities do not have role models to look up to.
  • Many aboriginal children with disabilities are in the welfare system because of poor living conditions. These families are unable to care for their children with disabilities adequately because there is a lack of support from the system.
  • Many aboriginal people with disabilities face many barriers in their communities. Some of the barriers are accessibility to many of the buildings on the reserves and as a result of this aboriginal people with disabilities are unable to participate in many aboriginal ceremonies because of their disabilities. Other barriers are a lack of knowledge of what is available to them for financial assistance. In most cases there is not a personal advocate for them.
  • In many aboriginal cultures they discriminate against their own people with disabilities.
  • Aboriginal women are the ones who are responsible to take care of people with disabilities in their communities.
  • People with disabilities in the aboriginal community must have a voice in order to get their needs met.
  • Aboriginal women with disabilities consider themselves to be aboriginal first and then to be a women and then to have a disability and in our society a person with a disability considers themselves to be women first and then to have a disability. This shows me that the aboriginal culture is very significant to aboriginal people.
  • I believe it is very important for aboriginal people with disabilities not just to be part of various organizations, but to make sure that their voices are heard on a regular basis.
  • It is very important that aboriginal people with disabilities become involved and advocate for themselves, to receive what they need in their communities.

My Own Journey in Living with a Disability

  • My disability is Cerebral Palsy and I have had it since birth it effects the mid part of my brain which controls all my motor skills; it does not effect my mentality sometimes people make assumptions that it does.

  • Growing up in my school years the teachers did not know what to do with me and I always felt that I had to prove myself by achieving good grades.

  • When some people see me they see my physical disability before they see me as a person. Many people forget the fact that I am unable to come up to them and talk to them and as result, over my lifetime I have missed many of experiences that many people take for granted, such as being invited to birthday parties and sleep over’s and being included in everyday conversations.
  • Many people throughout my life have made decisions for me and I have found this very frustrating and it makes me angry.
  • Some people stare, but I do not really notice anymore. Others will pat me, put their hands on me and otherwise take liberties with me that they would not with others. This makes me feel invaded.

  • Others treat me like I am not very intelligent.

  • Many of these things happen because people do not really know how to act and then make assumptions.

  • I believe sometimes people are afraid to approach me because I always have an assistant with me. I feel more comfortable interacting with people when my assistant is not there.

  • When I am in large groups I tend to observe people instead of interacting with them. I think that people sometimes forget that I can not just come up to them and start a conversation.

  • It is difficult for me to start a conversation when I do not know if they are going to understand what I say, I do not mind repeating myself though!  Having a disability has given me a lot of patience!

  • I used to think that what I had to say was not very important. Now I am learning that is not true.

  • Over the years I have been afraid to be open and talk about my disability, but now I realize that it is important to educate people about disabilities.
  • I have over come many obstacles through out my life and I have learned that it takes a lot of perseverance, courage and patience.

What we can do as Social Workers

  • As social workers we must remember to not make decisions for our clients. This is one of the reasons why empowerment and self determination is so important to me.
  • We must work together with people with disabilities to advocate for the things that they need in their community.
  • In my social work profession I hope that I can assist aboriginal people with disabilities and others to accomplish their goals.
  • Remember when you are working with people with disabilities it is important make sure that they have access to whatever recourses that you have available to them.
  • When you are working with people with disabilities, speak directly to them, not to their assistant. Make sure that they can see you when you talk to them.

  • If you are not sure how to act or what is appropriate when working with people with disabilities ask them, treat us like you treat everyone else.

  • If they need an advocate do not be afraid to speak up for them, when they can not speak up for themselves.

  • Most importantly see people with a disability as individual people, not just as the disability that they have. They are not defined by their disabilities.


During this presentation I discovered that if you have a disability it does not matter if you are aboriginal or not, we all want the same things. When I think of people from different cultures and different minority groups I relate them to various types of butterflies. And how the creator created us in many different colours and shapes, when a butterfly comes out of it its cocoon it is like us overcoming many obstacles throughout our life and we have to come together as one. The transformation begins at this moment and carries on into our future! I believe what I am accomplishing right now is a form of decolonization. In my social work profession I hope to take what I have learned and my experiences and assist aboriginal people and others with disabilities.


Aboriginal People with Disabilities…an Introduction Part 2.  Retrieved March 14, 2007, from

Aboriginal Women with Disabilities. Aboriginal Culture and Disability. Retrieved March 6, 2007, from

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