Disability & The Described Self
Several years ago, I was having coffee with a friend at a local coffee shop. As always, we started our conversation with some laughter before he began sharing about a resent encounter he had while going about his daily activities in the community. It seems he had struck up a dialogue with someone on the subject of disabilities and they thought to ask him, “Wouldn’t you want to be normal?”
That’s when my friend revealed something that I had never really contemplated before in the deeper sense. He told the person, “I am normal. This is the way I was born and have always been.”
Born with Cerebral Palsy, my friend had no other life experience other than the mobility differences he grew up with since his birth. As far as he was concerned, this was his normal and the way he was meant to be. For him, God had created him in this body and he wouldn’t want to be like any-body else.
I couldn’t argue with him. Who was I to say he was meant to be any different? At the same time, I was confronted with a paradox of my own embodiment. Unlike my friend, I was not born with the paralysis that I have in my body today. For the first 15 years of my life I had a body with relatively normal physical abilities until a car crash caused a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia. And I don’t believe God intended my car crash to necessarily happen causing my injuries, either.
So was my friend then not considered disabled while I was?
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