The Mighty Logo

I Am So Much More Than 'the Disabled Girl'

I am a girl with a disability. I cannot deny that. But I should not be defined as “the disabled girl,” because I am so much more. My muscular dystrophy requires me to use a power wheelchair to get around. I can walk, but only for short distances. I always like observing people’s reactions when they see me walk for the first time without knowing that I can. It’s not the result of a miracle; it’s a result of my hard work. Yes, I do ask for help for certain things. Yes, I do accept offers of help, but those offers shouldn’t come from people who believe I’m not capable of doing things for myself.

I’m lucky to have grown up in a community that’s so accepting of people who are different, but I do still encounter overt discrimination towards people with disabilities. Earlier this year, I was at a school assembly, talking to a friend and a teacher. My auditorium does not have designated wheelchair seating, so I park in a little alcove in the back. A photographer approached us, and without addressing me at all, asked my friend and my AP English teacher, “Can she move her chair?” assuming that I couldn’t speak for myself. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last.

When things like this happen, I feel like a non-person — just a chair and not a human being. I have thoughts, feelings, ideas, and dreams, and I have the cognitive ability to respond to a simple question. Luckily, my teacher was as outraged as I was. She responded, “She can answer for herself,” and gave the photographer a talking-to about how to address people with disabilities.

I don’t know if I would be different if I didn’t have a disability, but I do know I like the person I am today. Ultimately, I’ve been able to accomplish great things, both in spite of and because of my disability. My disability hasn’t stopped me from excelling in school, making incredible friends, and living a happy life. I consider myself to be a teenage girl who just happens to use a wheelchair, and that’s how you should see me as well. I do face challenges, but these challenges have shaped me into the strong, positive person I am today.

Don’t feel bad for me because I have a disability. Instead, appreciate me for my abilities and talents, and treat me like any other person. Everybody who has a disability deserves the chance to be treated with respect and equality.

Follow this journey on That’s Just How I Roll.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo by contributor.

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