My Disabilities Define Me and That’s Okay
September 22, 2017 | Lauren Berglund, 2017 AAPD Summer Intern
It’s no secret that people often say “my disability isn’t who I am” or “don’t let your disability define who you are”, but what if it does?
What if I am who I am today because of my disability? What if the main reason I’m interning in Washington DC this summer is because I’m disabled?
My disabilities define me and that’s okay.
My disabilities have affected who I am and countless choices I have made. They have driven my passions and desires. They have made me the person I am today, and I am a better person because of them. They impact my experiences, thoughts, and feelings. I am strong, stubborn, and articulate because I’ve had to be. I am an advocate and ally because of my experiences as a disabled person.
Being disabled and the effect it has on my day to day life is almost always on the forefront of my mind. I can’t just “forget” I’m disabled. Being disabled affects every single aspect of my life. From shopping, to getting from place to place, to something as simple as getting out of bed are all affected by my disabilities. No matter how much others would like to think disabilities don’t limit people, the truth is they do.
I don’t just “happen to be” a student with a disability, I am a disabled student plain and simple. Being disabled greatly impacts my ability to be a college student. It means I have to advocate for myself daily. It means I have to plan ahead and be prepared for any situation. It means I have to work twice as hard as my peers to read the same article. It means preparing weeks in advance for the start of a semester and it means that sometimes I just can’t make it to class that day.
When you tell me not to let my disability define me you are telling me not to embrace a huge part of my existence. You are asking me to ignore the part of me that has greatly shaped who I am today. You are indirectly telling me that part of my identity isn’t important. When you treat my disabilities as something separate from me and say they don’t define me, you are denying the overwhelming significance disability has had on my life.
Identifying as a disabled person empowers me every day. When I say “I am disabled,” it isn’t for pity and I am not giving up or showing weakness. When I say I am disabled I am showing my strength, worthiness, and power. I am owning who I am.
Being disabled has meant meeting countless amazing people (who are not amazing for simply being disabled) from all over the world. I have traveled all around the United States, lobbied on Capitol Hill, changed policies, and fought for my rights as a disabled young adult and I wouldn’t change any of that.
* * *