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Posted 10 Feb 2020

No shame in being disabled

In response to a recent blog about the term disability I wanted to offer a different story.

For me, finding out my neurotype is considered a disability was also a bit of a surprise. I know there are some things that I struggle with but everyone has their issues right? I had never considered my differences to be a bad thing, in fact I see them as a competitive edge. What I realised however was that I had a lot of internalised ableism surrounding the word ‘Disability’ that I needed to deal with. For example why did it make me feel defensive to be called that? Is the world not full of wonderful people who are also disabled? Examining these feeling has led to a lot of personal growth and a determination to do more to address ableism wherever I see it. I also have plenty of friends who identify as disabled and are trying to reclaim that name as a positive for the community. To them it is a source of pride, a term that demonstrates resilience and challenges people to rethink how they define a persons value in the world and I support this view.

A big part of the process for me has been coming to understand the social model of disability and why the word disabled is in fact accurate for me even though it may sound like a negative. The social model showed me that I have in fact been disabled by the world around me. By decisions that are made on a mass scale that don’t allow for nuance, by systems that were built without me in mind. If I change the term and call myself “differently-abled” I am putting the focus on me and what I can and cannot do. I don’t need a label for that. By using the term disabled it keeps responsibility where it belongs, on the world that is not being inclusive enough.

I hope in the future there will be no need for terms like disabled because the world will become a more systemically inclusive place. No doubt there will always be a need for terms that explain human differences but perhaps they will become less loaded with stigma as society wakes up to the idea that diversity is strength

– Helen

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