Disguising Disability

Something has struck me lately. Seems to me that most folks with disabilities who write or speak on the topic — and who appeal to a broader audience — tend to be motivational speakers.

That’s disappointing to me. I understand that my life, and the lives of others who have overcome disability, are inspiring from an outsider’s perspective. To be honest, I sometimes amaze myself. But, it scares me that I might have to hide a piece of who I am in order to have you truly hear me.

The physical limitations that I exhibit from a stage or a photo will always be fairly obvious, I suppose. That is also true for a lady in a wheelchair or a man without arms and legs.

Specifically, what I’m speaking to is the message that everything is great and that those with disabilities have to be content and ubiquitously happy. That’s almost required for most “normal” folks to willingly encounter disability. In other words, what can I do to hide or limit the pain and challenge of my disability in order to make you comfortable in the conversation?

That’s the dichotomy I wrestle with. Some of us will never escape our marked bodies that so clearly exhibit loss. Yet, there seems to be a desire that most of the words we speak exhibit very little of that pain and reality.

I think that needs to change. We need to be real — both those with and without disabilities. Yes, there are happy and joy-filled days in all of our lives — days where everything works out and smiles abound. But, at least for disabled folks, there are nights where our bodies are tired, emotions are raw, and our minds just want rest.

Therefore, I think we need to be able to speak the truth about challenges and not minimize the limitations inherent in our bodies and minds.

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