What to Know About Me, from Someone with a Disability

When you see me, the first thing you’ll probably notice will be my red scooter. No, it’s not a motorcycle-esque scooter. I mean a mobility one. Yes, the ones you see 70 year olds or obese people riding on. I am not an elderly lady nor obese, but rather a 22 year old college graduate and although I have accepted my disability, it doesn’t encompass my entire identity. Does that sound weird to you? If it does, I understand. Let me explain.

One day, a gay guy friend of mine simply told me that his sexuality isn’t a major component of his identity. It’s an important one, he said, but to him family and his career matter more. I had a brief revelation at that moment. What he said was so obvious, that identity can be shaped by numerous small factors instead of the most prominent quality that you immediately notice about someone. And yet I just assumed that my friend’s sexuality ruled his identity the most. Now, the inequalities and prejudice that gays and disabled people face each day are vastly different, but the fact is both groups are considered minorities, so that’s why I’m pulling this anecdote to say the same thing about myself – my disability isn’t entirely me.

This is different from how many disabled individuals assert that their disability doesn’t define them, and that they have a personality outside of their disease. What I mean is that I have never been the kind of person, who with their disability, advocates for their rights by say, joining a disabled students group in college. I’ve never been part of some kind of support group either. That’s not to say that I disagree with people who are part of those groups or that I refuse to accept my disability. It’s just that that agenda and that campaign have never been number one on my priority list. Not every gay guy protests out on the streets for his rights. Same goes for say, a Latina woman or a Muslim immigrant. This isn’t a matter of ethics concerning a decision that should be made by the public for minority groups to advocate for something. That is completely up to the person him/herself.

The automatic assumption that I had of my friend – that is, assuming that his sexuality matters the most to him and therefore rules most of his decisions – probably swims around most people’s minds when they see me for the first time. I realize that if you don’t know me, it’s easy to assume that my disability takes up a lot of what makes my identity because you’re probably thinking: scooter. Ok, can’t walk. Can’t run. Can’t walk up steps. Everything is bound within a language of limitations. Then let’s say you slowly get to know me: Oh, she is actually pretty smart. Huh, she can walk, in a way. She can do some stairs. After we get past this stage, it’s imperative that you don’t expect an inspirational story from me. I won’t give one to you and don’t try to weave one from the things you find out that I actually can do. I am just a person, and what matters to me the most are my friends, family, writing and my dreams. This isn’t some kind of a plea to make myself blend in with the rest of the crowd; I believe it’s important for me to say this again and again because a lot of people find this surprising. I was like that too with my gay friend – that’s why it matters so much to share. To tell. To educate.

2 thoughts on “What to Know About Me, from Someone with a Disability

  1. I enjoyed reading this post. It’s a loud reminder that the condition does not make the person, if that makes sense. Your paragraph regarding the disability groups and people advocating for their rights resonated in that it reminded me of my senior year in college when I was writing my personal statements for law school applications. I wanted to write about my experiences with my issues as I wanted to specialize in a type of law that helped others with similar challenges. However, it’s important to know that you are not _____.

    As you mention in your last paragraph, assumptions ARE made, and unfortunately that has a negative effect on how people view your capabilities. It gets really frustrating. Seeing people as individuals is the way to go. Also, knowing that you are not your ____ or simply a _____ does well not just for your self esteem, but your interactions with others.

    Liked by 1 person

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