The Prospect of Living Life with a Long-Term Disability

“It has been said that life has treated me harshly, and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me…” – Helen Keller, The Open Door

This quotation by Helen Keller highlights the quintessential challenge that someone with a long-term disability faces. Additionally, while Keller notes that being disabled has taken away many of life’s pleasures, her realistic but positive attitude in the face of adversity has not only made her existence bearable, but it has allowed her to experience a richness of life that she might not have otherwise experienced.

As an aside, Helen Keller contracted “an unknown illness… which might have been scarlet fever or meningitis” at nineteen months old. The consequence of this illness left her both deaf and blind. To quote her again, she felt as though she lived “at sea in a dense fog.” 

Interestingly enough, in spite of her double disability, she was also the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. And, she was a well-traveled author, and an outspoken activist for social causes like labor rights, socialism, antimilitarism, women’s suffrage. 

Consequently, it is worth considering the option of emulating her life in the face of the day-to-day challenges of doing life with a long-term disability. 

The long-term disability: A definition and qualifying conditions

In order to facilitate an accurate understanding of the phrase “long-term disability,” let’s consider a concise definition: 

According to, the expression “long-term disability” within the concept of long-term disability insurance, is a condition that prevents an individual from working for a very long time due to illness or an injury caused by accident. 

In light of this definition, the question that must be asked and answered is: What are the primary conditions that qualify for long-term disability?

By way of answering this question, here are several of the many conditions that qualify for long-term disability benefits: 

  • Musculoskeletal disorders like back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, cervical or neck disorders, and osteoarthritis. 
  • Mental Health disorders like bipolar, anxiety, depression, and psychosis. 
  • Cerebral disorders or brain injuries such as a brain tumor, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and cerebral atrophy
  • Cancers like leukemia, lung cancer, liver cancer, and various lymphomas.

As stated above, these are not all of the conditions or illnesses that qualify for long-term disability benefits. Thus, should you believe that your health status complies with the long-term disability definition, it is best to consult a medical specialist, disability specialist attorney, or your insurance company.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the raison d’etre behind citing Helen Keller’s life as an example of how someone with a dual disability-led a fulfilling life is not to highlight the possible failure of anyone living with a long-term disability. Instead, it is intended to showcase the possibility of living a productive and fulfilling life despite the disability. 

Finally, it is also essential to note that Hellen Keller admitted that her life was not perfect or even comfortable, she was realistic in her writings. She just chose to see the positive elements within the daily battles of living life being both deaf and blind.


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