What These Everyday Disability Phrases All Have in Common
I was born three months premature and had to be transported from one hospital to another when I was only 2 hours old to receive oxygen treatments. It remains a mystery whether my premature birth caused my diagnosis or vice versa, but regardless, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 15 months old.
“I don’t see your disability.”
“I’m attracted to people who are damaged goods.”
I’ve had surgeries and gone to therapy for years to become as mobile as I am today, and of course, my diagnosis has cost my parents and other family members a significant amount of money, worry and stress.
“Don’t become your disability.”
“Don’t let your disability stop you.”
But here’s the thing – I know I will always be looked at first and foremost as someone with a disability. Whether it’s the way I sometimes slur my words (which gets worse when I’m tired, stressed or alcohol-assisted, making for a great party trick!), the way I drag my feet when I walk or the look of intense concentration on my face when walking with hot coffee in my hands, I can’t hide my disability.
“I’ll pray for you.”
“Don’t ask him that!” says a mother to her small child.
If you haven’t gathered by now, these are all things I’ve heard in my day-to-day life, and here’s what the commonality in all of these statements is: they all imply the people saying these things would never want to live with a disability.
Disability makes people uncomfortable because unlike race and, yes, sexual orientation, at any moment, within seconds, an able-bodied person could have that privilege taken away from them. So a society that doesn’t know how to cope with that reminder of their own mortality comes up with euphemisms like “special needs,” “challenged,” “handicapable” or my personal favorite, “differently-abled.”
But let’s cut the crap, shall we? I’m disabled. I have a disability.
And at the end of the day, I love my disability.
So should you.
My disability provides me with countless hours of laughter, icebreakers at parties and a way to empathize with people easier, among countless other things. My disability has contributed to the friends I’ve made over the years, it’s caused me to think of new ways to do things, and it forces me to be vulnerable to perfect strangers.
And while there are of course those days when all I wish is that I could take a morning jog and feel the wind rushing through my hair, I also know those aspirations are in some ways results of an ableist society that also doesn’t want to “see my disability.”
Feel free to do that, by the way – to not see my disability. It’s your choice, but you will miss out on so much beauty.
The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.