Disability and risk

As people with disabilities, we generally have to adopt a different attitude towards risk than nondisabled peers. Most of us have to take more risks than most other people, and that can be very confusing. Sometimes it can feel like being more reckless, when it’s actually just a consequence of having fewer options.

For instance:


  • People with disabilities often have far fewer options for housing than people who aren’t disabled
  • Accessible housing is limited
  • (Eg: if you need a flat entrance, that excludes most apartments. If you need to live alone, that excludes most affordable apartments.)
  • People without disabilities are generally in a much better position to say no to things that seem sketchy or unreasonable.
  • When there are only three apartments in a city that you can both get into and afford, it’s much harder to say no to the roommate with a loud parrot who wakes you up every night
  • Or the landlord who wants an unreasonably large deposit, or who want to insist that you go to church with them as a condition of living there, or who obviously have no intention of keeping everything in working order
  • If things go bad, it can feel like it was your fault and that you should have known better than to get into this situation
  • Especially if most of your friends wouldn’t ever take that kind of a risk (which is likely to be the case if most of them aren’t disabled or poor)
  • It might not be your fault though
  • It might just be that you only had risky options, you had to choose from among them, and you were unlucky this time
  • That’s in the nature of only having high-risk options: sometimes bad things will happen. It’s not your fault if you’re in that situation.

Similar considerations apply to equipment, travel, employment, and any number of other things. Being disabled (and/or poor) often involves having to take much higher risks than most other people have to take. Sometimes, this will even involve taking life-threatening risks to do things like go to a conference. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re reckless. It can just mean that you’re trying to live your life and that you have things to do that can’t be done completely safely.

Short version: People with disabilities often have to take more risks than people without disabilities. That isn’t a matter of recklessness; it’s a matter of necessity.