At RARE Youth Revolution, we want to challenge people's perceptions of the limitations of the disabled and showcase all the wonderful hobbies we can do and how they improve our lives.
Use the hashtag #RARERecreation to be featured in our campaign!
A hobby is an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. It is a chance for everyone to do something they love, and it can also hone a skill or even be a way to socialise with other people. There are a variety of hobbies out there to explore, with activities ranging from the physically demanding to the mentally stimulating, from the absorbingly creative to the frenetically social.
Many people have a hobby of some kind, but there is perhaps a perception that if somebody has a disability, they won’t have a hobby—their condition is almost assumed to be their pastime. While some disabilities are indeed more prohibitive than others, many of us live a somewhat normal life. We can, therefore, enjoy and benefit from the various hobbies that other people do, perhaps doing them in a slightly different way.
Some hobbies can spark a creative streak, particularly benefitting people who want to tap into their creative side. Examples include writing, drawing, pottery, crocheting and anything else that ends up in a masterpiece of some description. Creative hobbies can be particularly inspiring, allowing you to be imaginative and think in a more innovative way. They also help to reduce stress. As you focus on something fun and relaxing, you enter a state of flow and are less distracted by the stressors. Such hobbies can be highly sociable too. Through them, you can find and connect with like-minded others, swap tips and create together to make your hobby even more enjoyable.
If you are looking for an inspirational example of a disabled person with a creative hobby, you need look no further than Instagram. Charlise, for example, is a disabled creator with over 60,000 followers on Instagram. Her page shows her fabulous crochet designs—many of which she does while in hospital. I love to crochet, too. I find it extremely therapeutic to do in my own time—and rewarding, once I’ve seen my creations come to life. Megan, another disabled creator with a big following, creates make-up looks inspired by her disability. Often, she tailors her make-up looks according to the tape needed to keep her tubes in place. Seeing Megan in the beauty scene helps breakdown ‘normal’ beauty standards, which can be particularly uplifting for younger disabled people.
Other hobbies are more physical: going swimming or walking, visiting the gym or playing sports. Such activities can help achieve goals such as reducing one’s health risk or controlling one’s weight. Admittedly, having a physical hobby requires a lot of discipline and self-motivation, but it might enable you to achieve important goals. You will also take pleasure in seeing your skills and abilities improve. For people who enjoy seeing goals achieved, a physical hobby is just the ticket!
Naturally, it may be a little harder for somebody with a rare disease or disability, or both, to do a physical hobby in the same way as someone who isn’t affected. But it is important to know that with accommodations put in place, we can still achieve what we want. For inspiration, look at Paralympian Sophie Wells—an outstanding athlete in dressage (an equestrian sport), who was recently awarded an OBE.
Personally, I have been playing table tennis for more than a decade. Quite simply, playing it just makes me happier, as I see my form and technique constantly improving. It is also an amazing way for me to meet people at my university I would never have met otherwise—all from various backgrounds and academic disciplines but all with the same love for the same sport.
There are also hobbies that are more emotionally or mentally stimulating, such as playing an instrument, painting, cooking, writing or gardening. These hobbies take your mind off stressful things like work or school and concentrate your mind on what’s right in front of you. It gives you a sense of control to be able to focus fully on one activity. Not only do these hobbies reduce stress, but they also keep your brain active. According to AGE UK, recent studies have shown them to maintain or even improve our thinking skills as we age. One artist I admire is Pashienze. She has arthrogryposis so can’t raise her arms and legs and can’t grip very well either; she does everything with her mouth, including holding her paintbrush!
Sure, there may be some hobbies which disabled people would find extremely difficult, but there are many disabled role-models proving that we can participate. A little accommodation and support can go a long way in helping us find our hobbies and passions. We can be creative with crochet, magical with make-up or skilful in sport. There are so many hobbies out there and they are beneficial in many ways: they can make life more interesting, happier and more relaxed.
Hobbies allow us to thrive in a different way through providing a safe space for us to pursue our passions. They allow us to rise above the isolation of living with a chronic illness or disability. Most importantly, they allow us to be ourselves. So, let’s get out there on social media and showcase our hobbies. Let’s challenge people’s perceptions of our limitations—sadly so often reinforced by thoughtless representations in the tabloid press!