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When the New School Year Means Repeatedly Introducing Yourself as Disabled

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This week I started uni. I also visited my new GP, started a new volunteer job, took up an old volunteer role again and applied for a job (go me!). I’ve given up counting how many new people I’ve either met or introduced myself to. Uni alone involves a collection of disability and mental health advisers, lecturers and fellow students. The vast majority of the interactions have gone along the lines of:

“Hi there, just wanted to introduce myself, I’m in your … class. I have a few health issues and need some accommodations to make it easier for me to learn.”


I don’t mind doing it – I’m perfectly happy speaking up and making sure I get what I need, and every person I’ve spoken to has been supportive (some going above and beyond), which is great. But I reckon in the last two weeks, I have introduced myself like this or similar at least 15 times.

I’m exhausted. I feel like I’m losing my identity. Because while my health is part of my identity, and I don’t disagree with that, I don’t want it to be the primary thing people know about me. With access requirements though, it can’t wait. I need those things in place before I start, before I’ve even met the staff in person.

Everyone else introduces themselves in class, “I’m … and my interests are …” That’s what they’ll be remembered by. Meanwhile, I’m “the disabled one.” But I am so much more than my disability. Especially in an academic context, I know I have so much to contribute. And in time, people will hopefully realize that. But for now, I’m the disabled girl. You’ll find me on the floor with my dictaphone.

Follow this journey on POTS & Spoons.

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Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages.

Originally published: September 25, 2017
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