6 Things I’ve Learned From Having Two Siblings With Disabilities


I’m the oldest of three, and both of my sisters have disabilities. I am in middle school, and so far this what I have learned:

1. Disability isn’t “normal” to other people.

My sister with Down syndrome was born when I was only 2 years old. My sister with cerebral palsy was adopted when I was 4. I don’t have even one memory without my sisters in my life. Disability is all I’ve ever known, and it’s perfectly “normal.” But to other people it’s different, and to some, it’s bad. They stare or ask questions like “What’s wrong with her?” But I can’t be too angry with them, (unless they’re being rude on purpose) because I know that my “normal” is different to theirs; they just don’t know what disability is like.

2. I’m comfortable with disability.

I’m comfortable around people and families with disabilities when usually I’m shy around new people. I think it’s partly because they know or have an idea of what my life is like. Every time my family and I see someone with a disability, we’re automatically like, “Oh, they have Down syndrome!” or “Hey, they have cerebral palsy!” And then of course my mom goes to talk with them. It’s like a big club, where everyone seems to already be friends because we all share disability.

3. My sisters are just my sisters.

Even though other people’s “normal” is different from mine, my relationship with my sisters is just like everyone else’s. We get along, we play together, we don’t get along and we fight, just like most siblings.

4. There are perks.

There are some other perks about having siblings with disabilities. The family gets handicap parking, so we have a close parking spot to where we want to go. When we go to theme parks, we actually get to skip the line and go first on rides. That’s a minor thing, of course, but still pretty nice.

5. The world is not very accessible.

Sometimes there are no ramps. Sometimes we have to ride these tiny/cramped elevators. Sometimes there are no accessible activities at events. And when there is accessibility, like handicap bathrooms and parking spots, people use them when they don’t actually need them. Like, “I want this bathroom because it’s big.” (My mom can act hostile towards these people sometimes, which can be very embarrassing).

6. Some people look down on those with disabilities.

Some people don’t get/understand how to act around people with disabilities. They talk to my sisters like they were babies, which I know really annoys them. Or they talk about them to my parents as if my sisters weren’t there or couldn’t hear them.


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


Related to Disability

Young woman in wheelchair with friends on a pier.

Finding Wheelchair Accessible Summer Travel Programs for Students

Finding a summer travel or study abroad program can be a challenge for anyone, but it can be particularly challenging for students who use a wheelchair some or all of the time. As a Managing Director of a study abroad program, I work very hard to make sure we do whatever we can to accommodate [...]
JJ looking up at the sky while it is pouring down and he is getting soaked, including his chair

Why JJ's Friendship Episode on 'Speechless' Had Me in Tears

On Wednesday’s “Speechless” episode, a classmate invited JJ to go watch a movie at a movie theater. It happens all the time, right? Friends make plans to go hang out and have fun. JJ is not so sure this will work out, because his past experiences have taught him friendships do not last long, or [...]
A 19th century illustration entitled "The Forging of the Anchor' depicts men with their hammers striking a vast hot metal anchor in a foundry with pulleys.

How Capitalism Contributed to Modern Conceptions of Disability

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers two definitions of disability. They are: “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities,” and “a disadvantage or handicap imposed by the law.” This is quite puzzling. The first definition has to do with the body, but the law is outside of that purview. These two [...]
Daryl "Chill" Mitchell as Patton Plame in "NCIS New Orleans."

How 'NCIS New Orleans' Is Breaking New Ground for Disability Representation

Last night, I finished my work for the day and like many people, I settled down to watch one of my favorite TV shows. “NCIS New Orleans” is popular for its evocative scenes of the Big Easy, fast-paced plots, and engaging characters. I enjoy all those things, but there’s a different reason why I watch [...]