Another interesting environmental disability is a deadly combination of inactive lifestyle and nutrition. This is not the typical disability that one thinks about when looking at environmental issues and the disabled individual. However, this is a growing problem as there has been an increase in obesity over the past couple of decades and it is related to the environment. You may be asking, “How is the environment to blame?” There is less space for people to engage in physical activity. Also, individuals are spending more time watching TV, surfing the internet, and playing video games. In addition, many of our cities and rural areas are not conducive to walking or riding bikes to school or work.
Food consumption also has an impact on this increase in the obesity epidemic. If we look at the current food consumption, people are eating out more often, the portion sizes are in greater proportion than they were just several decades ago, increased consumption of sugary drinks and the size of these drinks compared to several decades ago (WHO). Also in specific regions where there is lower socioeconomic status, there is likely inadequate access to fresh foods including farm-raised meats, fruits, and vegetables. This limited access also plays a significant role in the increase in obesity in specific populations coupled with the lack of accessible parks and playgrounds which compound this epidemic. This deadly combination of decrease in physical activity and increase in portion sizes have resulted in this environmental disability.
Why is this environmental disability a concern for the general population? As a result of this obesity epidemic, there is an impact to the health of people with disabilities that is far greater than the health of the general population. This is exacerbated as the person with a disability may be unable to walk or has limited walking ability. There may not be access to healthy foods due to proximity of a grocery store that sells healthy foods. This added layer of where to exercise and get healthy foods becomes even greater for people who have disabilities. This is problematic in the general, healthy population but is magnified when looking at people with disabilities.
Another major problem is attitude toward people with disabilities. Challenging the negative attitudes that people may have and combatting negative language, stereotypes, and stigma are also very important (Thornicroft et al. 2007). Most people in the general public have a lack of understanding of disabilities and are unaware that the person can be successful if the appropriate or adequate environment is provided (Siperstein et al. 2003). Although people with medical disabilities face many challenges, there is an even greater discrimination seen towards people with mental disabilities.
There are negative attitudes and treatment by the general population, discrimination by employers, taunting or teasing by schoolchildren, generalized bullying, and lack of support. These negative attitudes oftentimes result in low self-esteem and participation in people with disabilities (Thornicroft et al. 2007). Discrimination experienced regardless of the disability has an impact on quality of life of the individual and their families.
Disabilities are so varied that many people may not view some people who actually have disabilities as being disabled. A lot of these viewpoints are from the classic viewpoint that someone has to have a visible disability such as being wheel-chair bound, being deaf, or blind (Park et al. 2007). Disability can be a result of a traumatic experience and the person having post-traumatic stress disorder which is oftentimes not exhibited outwardly. Children born with congenital diseases are also disabled and there is sometimes no outward sign of this. Other examples of disability would include severe arthritis or a person who has dementia.
As many health conditions are visible, there are just as many that are invisible and it’s important to educate the general population that although you may not be able to outwardly see the disability there may be one present. The disabled condition can be temporary, episodic, permanent, etc.; therefore, a person can be deemed disabled but can be temporarily disabled or a permanently disabled (National Health Survey 2007-2008).