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“I don’t think of you as having a disability!”

“I don’t think of you as having a disability!”

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When people say that they don’t associate the word “disability” with me or with Moxie, I think they mean it as a compliment. It certainly has that tone. “I don’t think of you as having a disability!”

I’m not insulted by these statements. I sense the love for us behind the words, I don’t take it personally.

But it’s not really okay.

Because, you see, we do have a disability. Moxie has Down syndrome and I am deaf and I have PTSD and TBI. Moxie has already had intense discrimination leveled at her despite her being only 4 years old. Indeed, her very name was chosen on the basis that she had already earned it by the time she was born.

And I have been fired from jobs for not being able to hear. I have had a very difficult time with school, relationships, self-esteem and life in general on the basis of my disabilities.

I am intelligent. So is Moxie. I have a decent education. Moxie will too. I can walk, so can my daughter. And we both have a particular way of hearing, perceiving, thinking and feeling that readies us for a lifetime of discrimination and prejudice. We are both prime candidates for being sexually and emotionally abused. In my case, I was; in Moxie’s case, I’ll give my life to ensure she remains safe.

 We both have a disability.

At this point in my own sojourn on earth, I am proud of the fact that I myself have a disability, and it is part of my identity. I look back on my past and view struggles that I have had by dint of my (lack of) hearing or the way that I think or feel and I know I’ve done well. Not despite my disability; I’ve done well because of my disability.

Which is to say: I have always wanted to experience life fully – the good, the bad, the full spectrum.

There is no way I would ever have experienced life to the extent that I have were it not for my disability. I would never have known how it is to be discriminated against, the way that prejudice feels when it’s aimed at you. I wouldn’t have developed the tools that I employ daily. I wouldn’t have become as intuitive, observant and perceptive as I have, had I not been disabled.

 Our having a disability is not an assessment of our ability

It’s merely a statement of fact in the way that we think, hear and feel. No more, no less.

So instead of saying “I don’t think of you as having a disability!”, you might want to say something more along the lines of, “and you have a disability.” It’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something that I’ve overcome. It’s not something that is meant to inspire. It’s like the color of my skin, the curl in my hair; it’s simply a part of who I am.

 

 

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Angel the Alien

Friday 6th of November 2015

I get that from people too... people will say that they cannot tell I'm autistic, as if it is a big compliment. I want to say, "Really? Because I can hardly tell you're neurotypical! Are you sure you are? Have you been evaluated?"

FlutistPride

Friday 6th of November 2015

That statement is like saying to me... "I don't think of you as an INTJ." "I don't think of you as an ENTJ." "I don't think of you as an ambivert." "I don't think of you as a Keirsey Rational." "I don't think of you as a MelChlor/ChlorMel."

Yes, I am an INTJ. I am an ambivert, Keirsey Rational, MelChlor, and several other things as well as autistic. Every part of me is an integral part of me whether you see it as such or not.

Kathryn

Saturday 10th of January 2015

As a teen with hearing loss, I feel the same way. When my friends say that it means they know me so wholly as a person they don't think about my disability. If random people say it, my thoughts are more mixed because I don't know them as well and tend to interpret as that they don't understand the realm of disability or do not think of hearing loss as a disability because it affects older people as they age.(Someone actually told me that when I was 9) I do have a disability and Im proud of it. I wouldn't be the same person without it.

Meriah

Sunday 11th of January 2015

word. I'm with you

Emme

Friday 9th of January 2015

Love this post! I'm a bit of a glass half full kind of gal, so I actually look at my disability as a kind of superpower, as it has given me many gifts, as well as taught me perseverance.

Recently I have taken part in a #SuperVoices campaign, exploring the abilities that our disabilities give us. In case you are interested, here is a blog post on the campaign: http://realwheels.ca/2014/11/whats-your-superpower/

Meriah

Saturday 10th of January 2015

thank you so much for sharing that link, Emme! I can't wait to read it and I do agree with it - I think we all do have skills/talents that are ours by virtue of our disability.

:)

Sally

Thursday 8th of January 2015

To me that means that what ever different ability you have doesn't factor in to the things that make us friends any more than your hair color, height or handed ness.

Meriah

Thursday 8th of January 2015

Hmm. I must have put that poorly, because I certainly think having a disability does factor in friendships more than hair colour, height or handedness. I mean, I just literally can't be friends with people who continuously mumble or look down, I can't be friends with people who get annoyed repeating things. It's much easier if people know how to lipread and/or sign. It also factors in because I know that people who are friends with me - or I with them - value our particular outlook on the world that comes with our disability. I think the main thing I wanted to convey is that we DO have a disability. And maybe some people should think about how they frame "disability" in their minds if they automatically reject the idea that Moxie and I have disabilities... you know?

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