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How It Feels to Experience Discrimination Because of My Disability

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Tonight, at almost 22 with a lifelong disability, I have a little bit of a broken heart. My heart is broken in a way many can’t understand, and I feel a heartache I wish on no one. A heartache that takes a lot of strength to overcome, as I work hard to not let others see how much it hurts.

I have experienced many forms of discrimination, lack of remorse and misunderstanding in my life, and unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier to deal with. It shouldn’t.

I was headed to PanIQ Escape Room DC to celebrate an occasion with my family. We couldn’t find the building, so we called to find the location. When the person on the phone described the location, we realized there were stairs to the main entrance, so we asked where the entrance was for people in wheelchairs. The response was simply, “there isn’t one.” They didn’t offer an apology, refund or any form of accommodation that would have allowed me to participate.

I have many issues with this. If I choose to, I can participate in anything anyone else can. I have that right. It should be given regardless of my difference or any difficulty I could cause the business. It doesn’t matter how a person seems to act or look. Who is to judge if I can or can’t be a part of something because of my physical difference?

I can’t tell you the pain I felt as I sat on the sidewalk being told my family couldn’t participate in this experience. We all had to miss out on what should’ve been a great experience simply because I use a wheelchair. I’m grateful for such a supportive family, but it’s unfair and heartbreaking for all of us. My heart especially broke for the person I was there to celebrate. They shouldn’t have to give up an experience with me because of a situation like this.

Many people tell me I’m so inspirational for how I handle and get through things as if I have it all together. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been angry and questioned my sense of independence because of ignorance such as what I experienced at PanIQ Escape Room. Will I have to question if I’m welcome to participate in an establishment every time I want to go somewhere? What makes me so different that I can’t have the same rights as everyone else without a fight?

As I sit here thinking of the situation I experienced and the next course of action I want to take, I want to say even with the amount of disrespect I experienced, it is not my goal to bad mouth this company. I don’t believe that will help. I share my feelings on the subject to make a difference for younger generations and myself, in the hope of preventing similar incidents. If places don’t have the capability to welcome and support the desires of people with disabilities as they would anyone else, we need to work together to find solutions. I do what I do so this heartache and fear of acceptance never happens to those younger than me.

Many of us struggle with seeming different than other people. It takes a lot of guts to make a difference, especially with less than understanding people in society. My heart hurts right now, not just because I wonder “why me,” but because I’m frustrated that someone else in this world could or has experienced the same hurt I have in more ways than one. I know the only way to “fix” these emotions is to do something and continue through the situation no matter how hard it may be some days.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a paper with the thesis “our hardest battles often turn out to be our best callings in life.” I thought my hardest battles were meant to be typical. They might’ve been my journey through multiple surgeries, college, family loss or dealing with the symptoms of my condition. Until now I never really imagined my career path involving discrimination or what makes me stand out.

People with disabilities are unique and can make our own special impact. Our actions affect the future. Take it a day at a time and make a difference in the way you were made to. Lastly, remember to support one another. You are valuable and worthy. You deserve equality for being exactly as you are. We will work to make that happen.

Getty image by Edward Lin.

Originally published: May 16, 2019
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