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How We Can Show Society What's 'Behind the Disability'

These days people with disabilities are finding our voices and making them heard. Whether we are designers with Down syndrome in Guatemala, teen models with cerebral palsy in Spain, or we are strutting or wheeling down the catwalk with amputated limbs, we are making our presence felt. For too long we have allowed those who haven’t walked in our shoes to control the narrative of our stories. It’s time we take control and change the tone of the story of disabilities. We constitute the largest minority group, yet other smaller minority groups have gained more prominence than us. I believe this is largely because we are seen as a cost center, a non-income generating group who keep taking the resources of our countries without yielding profits.

While some of us cannot work and thus have to use a welfare program of some sort, many of us are working and contributing to the wealth of our countries. Whether or not we are being “productive,” we need to get visibility and thus compel industries to consider our needs when designing their products, because we also have buying power. Our mark must be seen across all industries, especially those that design our equipment, prostheses, and shoes.

As a child, I hated those bulky orthopedic shoes we were all given to wear with leg braces. They were either black or brown, bulky, heavy and unfashionable. When I was given the option of wearing them with Nike trainers, I jumped at it – they came in many different colors and were much nicer from an aesthetic point of view.

What if we could use our experiences to influence the design of the orthopedic shoes being manufactured these days? Or to jazz up our rollators, crutches, wheelchairs? What if we could catch the attention of Christian Louboutin and have him design our orthopedic shoes? Yeah, it’ll be super pricey but we could aspire to one day own a pair of Louboutins just like able-bodied shoe lovers.

For many people, our disabilities don’t define us; they are just a part of who we are, like a leg or an arm. We have the same emotional, psychological and sexual makeup as everyone else. When we start controlling the narrative of our story, many more people will get to know the real us, who we are behind the images our physical and/or mental conditions project.

What if we started a social media campaign and introduced ourselves by answering these questions: Who are you? What are your likes/dislikes? What do you do? And lastly, what is your disability?

I am Farida, a software engineer from Ghana. I love reading and watching “The Blacklist” …and I have cerebral palsy. #BehindTheDisability

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