What These Everyday Disability Phrases All Have in Common

BKrautwurst, August 2015 “Confined to a wheelchair.”


I was born three months premature and had to be transported from one hospital to another when I was only 2 hours old to receive oxygen treatments. It remains a mystery whether my premature birth caused my diagnosis or vice versa, but regardless, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 15 months old.

“I don’t see your disability.”

“I’m attracted to people who are damaged goods.”

I’ve had surgeries and gone to therapy for years to become as mobile as I am today, and of course, my diagnosis has cost my parents and other family members a significant amount of money, worry and stress.

“Don’t become your disability.”

“Don’t let your disability stop you.”

But here’s the thing – I know I will always be looked at first and foremost as someone with a disability. Whether it’s the way I sometimes slur my words (which gets worse when I’m tired, stressed or alcohol-assisted, making for a great party trick!), the way I drag my feet when I walk or the look of intense concentration on my face when walking with hot coffee in my hands, I can’t hide my disability.

“I’ll pray for you.”

“Don’t ask him that!” says a mother to her small child.

If you haven’t gathered by now, these are all things I’ve heard in my day-to-day life, and here’s what the commonality in all of these statements is: they all imply the people saying these things would never want to live with a disability. 

Disability makes people uncomfortable because unlike race and, yes, sexual orientation, at any moment, within seconds, an able-bodied person could have that privilege taken away from them. So a society that doesn’t know how to cope with that reminder of their own mortality comes up with euphemisms like “special needs,” “challenged,” “handicapable” or my personal favorite, “differently-abled.”

But let’s cut the crap, shall we? I’m disabled. I have a disability.

And at the end of the day, I love my disability.

So should you.

My disability provides me with countless hours of laughter, icebreakers at parties and a way to empathize with people easier, among countless other things. My disability has contributed to the friends I’ve made over the years, it’s caused me to think of new ways to do things, and it forces me to be vulnerable to perfect strangers.

And while there are of course those days when all I wish is that I could take a morning jog and feel the wind rushing through my hair, I also know those aspirations are in some ways results of an ableist society that also doesn’t want to “see my disability.”

Feel free to do that, by the way – to not see my disability. It’s your choice, but you will miss out on so much beauty.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to commun[email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Other

When People Respond to My Child’s Diagnosis With ‘Everything Happens for a Reason’

I’ve been asked many times what condition my son has. When I tell them, they look at me with a confused on their face. Prune belly syndrome is a rare syndrome, and most people have never heard of it. Honestly, I had never heard of it either – until my child was diagnosed. I start on how [...]

To the People Wondering About My Child’s Diagnosis

We saw my daughter facing challenges at a young age and knew something wasn’t right. We spent many months seeing different specialists and doctors to figure out what was wrong. I spent countless nights crying, worrying about the future and comparing my child to others. I just wanted a diagnosis to find out what was [...]

What I Need You to Know on World Prematurity Day

Once upon a time I used to bleed awareness. I used to throw statistics around. I’d scream at the top of my lungs and beg everyone to understand, beg them to see.   In recent years, my battle cry is not as strong.   I haven’t become weak. Worn maybe, but never weak. I’ve come to realize [...]

What I Want My Daughter to Know About Her Brother’s Infantile Scoliosis

Dear Ladybug, Right now, at 10 months old, you’re just a little ladybug, and your face lights up when you see your brother’s smile. He’s your biggest fan, favorite playmate, stealthy conspirator and lifelong protector. He adores you, loves to make you laugh, enjoys antagonizing you and is so proud to be your big brother. [...]