Being disabled is just one of many identities I have, but it’s perhaps the most important to me. I ‘became’ disabled as an adult so the word wasn’t one I immediately and comfortably identified with, this was down to my own preconceived ideas about disability and what I thought it meant.
I wasn’t convinced that my illness really qualified as a disability, I wasn’t sure that I was ‘disabled enough’ and even if I were, did I really want to apply the term to myself?
As someone with a lot of privilege it was up to me to take the time to learn and unpick my feelings about disabled as a label and my reluctance to identify as such. I did, and I don’t expect or deserve any congratulations for it.
It’s important to me now – as my disability is invisible – that I actively identify as and call myself disabled. It’s crucial that different types of disability are represented clearly and often, as many abled people just haven’t had any experience of seeing, knowing, or even talking with disabled people… or rather, they think they haven’t. I feel that this is where many of the ill-informed preconceptions about disabled people come from; lack of experience, lack of awareness.
My disability means that I experience day to day life differently now than I did previously; I space out any activities and try not to take on too much. I work extremely part time from home. I prepare, plan ahead and ask for help. I have to find out if new places are accessible as so, so many aren’t.
It’s incredibly frustrating that rather than not being able to do stuff independently, it’s more a case of the world outside my home not being set up for me to use it easily on my own. My world is a lot smaller than it was before; I spend a lot of time within these four walls. I wish it was different. I want to help make it better.
As such, for me an important part of my identity as a disabled person is campaigning for change. There is so much to fight for right now: representation, rights, accessibility, financial support, benefits, equality… the list goes on. I do what I can when I’m able to, I’m also incredibly grateful when others turn up and shout for the cause when I’m not able to.
Being disabled is not automatically a negative thing and I regret ever having seen it as such. It’s changed the way I experience life and it’s changed my attitudes in many ways; but having said all of the above, I’m still fundamentally the same person (and can still be a complete nightmare at times).
For more perspectives on disability, identity, and what that means to different people then please head on over and watch this video series called ‘Identities’. Each short film takes the form of interviews with disabled people and documentary footage of their lives with a focus on each individual’s opinions and experiences; I found all three videos to be incredibly thoughtful and interesting.