When the New School Year Means Repeatedly Introducing Yourself as Disabled
This week I started uni. I also visited my new GP, started a new volunteer job, took up an old volunteer role again and applied for a job (go me!). I’ve given up counting how many new people I’ve either met or introduced myself to. Uni alone involves a collection of disability and mental health advisers, lecturers and fellow students. The vast majority of the interactions have gone along the lines of:
“Hi there, just wanted to introduce myself, I’m in your … class. I have a few health issues and need some accommodations to make it easier for me to learn.”
I don’t mind doing it – I’m perfectly happy speaking up and making sure I get what I need, and every person I’ve spoken to has been supportive (some going above and beyond), which is great. But I reckon in the last two weeks, I have introduced myself like this or similar at least 15 times.
I’m exhausted. I feel like I’m losing my identity. Because while my health is part of my identity, and I don’t disagree with that, I don’t want it to be the primary thing people know about me. With access requirements though, it can’t wait. I need those things in place before I start, before I’ve even met the staff in person.
Everyone else introduces themselves in class, “I’m … and my interests are …” That’s what they’ll be remembered by. Meanwhile, I’m “the disabled one.” But I am so much more than my disability. Especially in an academic context, I know I have so much to contribute. And in time, people will hopefully realize that. But for now, I’m the disabled girl. You’ll find me on the floor with my dictaphone.
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Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages.