The Mighty Logo

Why I'm Grateful to Be a Person With a Disability

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

A video recently released by Bright Side epitomized the misconception that being disabled means living in confinement, isolation, and hopelessness. The video showed a series of people wishing for a “better” mode of transportation, such as a bicyclist wishing for a car. It concluded with a clip of a wheelchair user envying a boy walking across the street and the text, “Be grateful for what you have.”

I am a wheelchair user, but I am not a punchline to a supposedly inspirational video. I am grateful for what I have, which includes my disability.

Being disabled means that I belong to a group notable for its activism, strength, and knowledge. I have had the immense joy of connecting with other disabled individuals who I met only because of my disability. These individuals have taught me strategies for self-advocacy, the importance of claiming space and power and, most importantly, the meaning of community. They have become my friends, partners and mentors.

I have also developed a disability consciousness, or way of understanding the world informed by my lived experience. While I am constantly learning and challenging my own assumptions, my disability consciousness allows me to intimately know how ableism operates in a way that able-bodied people will never know. My disability consciousness has informed my values, political actions, personal goals, and relationships. I positively use this consciousness to work in coalitions with various communities to challenge oppression and advocate for a more just society.

My disability has also helped me develop personal traits that have served me in many aspects of life. Through years of diagnostic challenges and untreated medical complications, I learned strategies to cope with chronic pain and fear of the unknown. I am able to call on these strategies when faced with other life challenges and to share them with others. Navigating an ableist world with a body that refuses to conform has taught me how and why to push back against discrimination. The strategies I learned because of my disability have been crucial to fighting for justice as a queer woman and being an ally to communities of color.

Why would I be grateful for my disability when videos like this show disability as the worst possible existence? By recognizing the positives of my disability, I am not denying the reality of living with severe diseases or navigating the world that claims I am “other.” Rather than being at war with my own body, I choose to claim my disability as a positive identity. I am proud to call myself disabled, because this identity associates me with people who I admire, recognizes my unique knowledge and honors my personal strength.

Originally published: August 24, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home