“I didn’t consider myself disabled”

Pre 2009 I didn’t consider myself disabled. I wasn’t very well, on sickness benefits and getting disability living allowance as well as a bus pass. I was just `not very well’ and I had every intention of getting treated and getting on with my life.
And then, in 2009 a number of things happened to change and challenge my perceptions of my illness that now means I know I am disabled, and quite proud of that fact. In fact I enjoy challenging anyone who says differently.My perceptions of what a disability was didn’t extend beyond a person in a wheelchair, which is very much how society sees it. I was just not well and in a different way to being disabled.In 2009 I was discriminated against because of my illness and changed degrees to disability studies, mainly seeking answers as to why I was treated so badly and wanting to change the system to stop it happening in future.

A side effect of this course was that I learnt about the social model of disability (http://www.liberateyourself.co.uk/disabled-students/defining-disability/the-models-of-disability/) and pretty much overnight I went from blaming myself for what had happened to seeing that it was actually society that had failed to adjust and accommodate my needs.
All of a sudden disability, and being disabled was not a bad thing, or a physical thing for people in wheelchairs, but it included me. I was by social model terms disabled by my situations and circumstances and not by my limited functioning. Although, the social model does have its flaws when it comes to illnesses such as mine. I am still receiving treatment, and there are still those limitations that exist despite all adjustments being made, but knowing that little secret, that its not my fault has truly liberated me.
So yes, its possible not to know your disabled, or even deny it but acceptance of being disabled doesn’t have to be a negative experience, but a positive affirmation of difference and a change in identity.
I know that for some people who don’t know they are disabled, because there is the attitude in society that certain illness and impairment isn’t disability. It saddens me to think that these people are denied access to help and support where you have to first identify as a disabled person to qualify, purely because of the attitudes of others.


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