As a disabled person living with cerebral palsy, sometimes I have been thought of as being lazy. Growing up, I was often told that I was lazy by peers in school because I needed accommodations in the classroom or that I sometimes wore sneakers with Velcro. I knew that I should have been to tie my shoes. In elementary school, there was an emphasis put on me learning to tie my shoes. However, because of my CP, my fine motor skills are impaired. I am physically unable to tie shoes. I don’t consider myself lazy for wearing slip-on shoes. In fact, slip-on shoes maximize my independence. The same thing goes for precut fruits or vegetables in the grocery store. I cannot use a kitchen knife by myself, so enjoying the fruit, which is precut, takes the hassle out of cutting it up myself.
When I turned sixteen and saw my peers beginning to work part-time, I felt jealous. You might be wondering why I was jealous of people who could work a minimum wage job. The answer is the fact that my peers had chosen to work. I didn’t have that choice. I wanted to work during high school to make my own money, but I was unable to. Even now, at 21 years old, I feel bad that I’ve never held a paying job or paid taxes—especially given the fact that my younger sibling now works part-time at a fast-food restaurant. I have been looking for work since before the COVID-19 pandemic and have been unsuccessful in my pursuit.
When it comes to physical activity, I use much more energy than my nondisabled peers. According to the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, due to the way CP affects the way people move, people who have cerebral palsy may have to use 3 to 5 times more energy to perform the same amount of work as their peers in terms of effort, persistence, muscle control, and concentration. Even at rest, people with CP have to work hard. Needless to say, I have found this to be true in my own experience. Walking around the grocery store or mall feels like I’m participating in a road race. After I finish up a physical therapy session, it feels like I’ve run a marathon. I am using muscles during PT that I don’t use otherwise.
Now that I am older, I’ve embraced the need for my power wheelchair. I refused to get a power wheelchair until I was 13. I held on to the ableist belief that a wheelchair would make me lazy. Now that I’ve had a power chair for almost a decade, I can’t imagine life without one. My power wheelchair allows me to enjoy everyday activities much more. I can spend time at museums and explore them rather than focusing on how fatigued I’ll become later. My power wheelchair represents freedom to me.
Disabled people aren’t lazy. We are just doing the best we can. Living life in a disabled body takes adaptability, patience, and understanding. I ask that nondisabled people exercise these same qualities before judging a disabled person.
“Cerebral Palsy and Fatigue: Why You’re Constantly Tired.” Edited by Barbara Brewer, Flint Rehab, Flint Rehab, 23 Apr. 2021, https://www.flintrehab.com/cerebral-palsy-and-fatigue/
“Cerebral Palsy AND Post-Impairment Syndrome.” Edited by Gina Jansheski, Cerebral Palsy Guidance, Cerebral Palsy Guidance, 19 Sept. 2020, http://www.cerebralpalsyguidance.com/cerebral-palsy/associated-disorders/post-impairment-syndrome/.