Guess how many times I’ve heard people say, “but you don’t look disabled!” to me? A lot of people won’t even really believe that I am, that I have bona-fide certifiable disabilities. They think that because I don’t use a wheelchair or a respirator, my disabilities are somehow less than, that they don’t count, that I’ve got it easier than other people do, so it’s an exaggeration to call myself “disabled.”
Guess how many times I’ve heard my friends who do use respirators and/or wheelchairs express frustration over having to explain yet again that their lives are awesome and they are honestly happy people who don’t live to inspire non-disabled people? That they have sex and do the dishes and struggle with their resume just like people who don’t use wheelchairs do.
Guess how many times I’ve read infuriating pity-drenched accounts of what a non-disabled person thinks a disabled person’s life is about?
a whole lot! more than I can count
That’s why I started 365 Days with Disability
365 days with disability
This photo project is based on Instagram – when people post their photos on their own account feeds, they just need to add the #365dayswithdisability hashtag to their photo to participate.
Their photo will automatically join the stream of photos that are showing our lives across the disability spectrum – the deaf, blind, physically, mentally and intellectually disabled, as well as those with chronic health conditions (and whatever lieth between!).
The photos are as regular as a shoe, as exciting as a pill-filled hand. I post photos that I take from my walks, or of my kids sometimes. Selfies are great.
Through these photos, we share our stories, our lives. We share the breadth of our experiences and our lives that are lived with disability, in all of their mundane glory. We see through the sharing of other’s photos how alike we are, we build community, see that we are not alone in our love of MAC-red lipstick, ModCloth or fancy canes. We meet people when we search through the hashtag and see who else is a deaf mom, a disabled parent, a cool cat who lives in Australia.
We can empathize with friends who are waiting in the doctor’s office for hours, who take hilarious photos while bored. Or non-hilarious photos. It all counts and it’s all part of our story.
So, share! Spread the word, pass it on.
Allies are welcome in this project – that means that if you are a friend or family member of someone with a disability, you can join in by tagging the related photos #365dayswithdisability
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.