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What My Disability Isn't

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My disability isn’t an excuse to assume I’m either “normal” or incompetent. I hate it when my disabled friends say, “I’m just trying to treat you like everybody else.” Is it because you think I’ve been unfairly treated like a child, or that I’ve been talked down to because I’m a roller? This is simply not the case. I’ve earned everything I’ve worked for. I work two jobs; granted, they are part time, but I will do what I need to put myself in the best situation to succeed. If that means I need to get a third job I will do so, or maybe I can work volunteer gigs that can turn into another chance to get money.

I think my able-bodied say the same thing because they don’t understand my disability or don’t want to acknowledge it. Society has made people in wheelchairs “special.” We are the Make A Wish Foundation people, the challenged people, and society doesn’t expect us to achieve much. When we do, we are deemed an inspiration. Just call me a roller or your favorite cripple. I want to have pride in my disability and I want my walking friends to have the same pride.

My disability isn’t an excuse to assume I need help. Often when I’m on the phone or not moving, I’ll have an older individual or even some young people ask me if I need help. While it’s a very nice gesture, it can become annoying if it happens three or four times within an hour. I know they think they are being nice when they see me leaning over, or when they don’t see my wheelchair in motion and they offer to help me. I want to roll my eyes and say “you’re annoying,” but I just hold it in, because I know their intentions are good.

I’ve had random people ask their friends if I can feed myself, or ask if I need round the clock care. That can make me frustrated, because for one thing people aren’t asking me, instead approaching another person, and they are making assumptions that I can’t take care of myself. I have an ego that likes my independence and strength, even though stereotypes disregard those as being qualities I could possess.

My disability isn’t something to be prayed for. Yeah, sometimes cerebral palsy can be frustrating, but there are people in the world who are way worse off than me — people who are starving, dying, who lack families and friends or the necessary support system to be happy. I’m glad people are concerned for my well-being, but I’m a grown adult who lives a good life, and I ask you to pray for those who don’t.

My disability isn’t something that prevents me from doing work. I have two jobs just to afford my apartment. I don’t live a luxurious life, but I live an independent life and I want to keep it that way, so I’ll keep being a working man.

Those are things my disability isn’t. But my disability is strong and beautiful.

Getty image by ChiccoDodiFC.

Originally published: December 26, 2018
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