“But you don’t look disabled”. That’s the first thing I hear when I tell people my story. In 2019 we are still stereotyping what someone with a disability is supposed to look like. This hits home the most when I see the looks people give me when I park in a handicapped space. Once I get out of my car I can feel the glances and the side eyes cutting me in half. But why are we like this?
For years, there has been a stigma around people with disabilities. If you have a disability people make fun of you, tend to avoid interacting with you, in school they don’t pick you for any teams, and as an adult people argue with you about YOUR disability. I wasn’t born with a disability so I don’t know what it was like going to school with one. However, being an adult living with a disability is very challenging.
The biggest hurdle that I had to jump was applying to jobs with a disability. Sure, employers ask if you have a disability on the application but I was hesitant about revealing that information. Once I started jobs I still didn’t know when or if it was ok to disclose my disability. I suffered immensely as I worked 12 hour shifts that required me to stand the entire time while wearing steel toe boots.
I still am determined not to let my disability define who I am. Since those days working in the warehouse I educated myself about the Americans with Disabilities Act. I now know of all the rights that protect me as an individual with a disability. Also, now when I pull into a handicapped space I no longer hang my head in shame as I leave my car. I invite people to ask questions about why I am parking there.
Living with a disability makes life difficult. However, I wouldn’t change things for all the money in the world. There are things that I’m finding out about myself that I never would have known if it wasn’t for my disability. The mental fortitude that I have allows me to keep going when my disability tries to stop me. My patience allows me to see another day as I do not try to constantly push myself beyond what I am physically able to do. Finally, my ambitiousness is what keeps me looking forward to the next day as I look forward to doing something else that someone with my disability “shouldn’t” be able to do.
I don’t let my disability define who I am. However, it does build character and has helped mold me into the person I am today. I have a story like millions of people in the world, living in the shadows afraid of the stigmas attached to having a disability. Well NO MORE! I (and hopefully you) can live with being determined, dedicated, and disabled.