Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that some people really don’t like the term disabled. I have no problem with being called disabled. People need not be afraid to use the word disabled around me. In July, I wrote about how I have begun to feel proud of my disability. While I am frustrated with some aspects of my Cerebral Palsy, including isolation, pain, and long-term unemployment, I have begun to accept my limits within the last few years. Cerebral Palsy is an integral part of my identity. I don’t like when people say that they “don’t see my disability.” I want people to acknowledge my disability. Cerebral Palsy is a part of my identity, and I am comfortable with that. It’s as much a part of my identity as my gender, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation.
Admittedly, I wasn’t always comfortable with my disability. As a young child, I longed to fit in and be just like everyone else. Growing up, I didn’t understand that it was okay to be disabled. People were constantly pushing me to be like everyone else. And to focus on my abilities rather than my disabilities.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the classroom and at school. I was always encouraged to make friends and participate in everything. In the second grade, I remember becoming frustrated because there was an emphasis on the fact that I couldn’t tie my shoes. I even was given a book teaching me all about shoe tying. Years later, I still can’t tie shoes, and that’s okay with me. My world won’t fall apart because I can’t tie shoes. I’ve found ways to work around my inability to tie shoes. I’m proud to be disabled. Cerebral Palsy has made me who I am today. I’d be lying if I said my disability hasn’t made my life hard at times, but I am disabled, and I’m okay with that.
Disability is not a disparaging term. Being disabled isn’t something you should keep a secret or refer to by another name, especially one invented by nondisabled people just because they find the term “disability” insulting.