The Ability In Dis-Ability

The Ability In Dis-Ability

"Normal" is just a myth.

I am going to assume that most of you probably know someone or know of someone who has a disability. Whether it’s a physical, developmental, or mental disability, we’ve heard of the struggles that people with disabilities go through, and mostly, it’s because of some inspirational thing that they’ve done. Or maybe there was someone at your school who you saw eating at the table with all the “special” kids. The point is, we know the definition of a disability. Google defines a disability as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities.” But I do not think we know what it actually means for an individual to have a disability.

To have a disability means that you may communicate in a different way from everyone else. To have a disability does not mean that what you have to say should be any less valued than what others have to say. Having a disability means that you may think differently than the 20 other people in your class. Having a disability does not mean that the way you think and your way of problem solving is the “wrong way” or that you are “being stupid.” To have a disability is really the exact opposite of the connotations we put on that word. What it means to have a disability is to have far more abilities than the world could ever label you as having. It means that you break the mold that society labels as the lie called “normal” which they try to force on everyone.

These are things that seem to be a stigma in our culture. We treat those who have disabilities as if the standards that we hold for them should be lower than those without disabilities. But really, people with and without disabilities are more alike than different. We’re all human beings. We all have abilities. We all want to have connections with our own group of friends and family. We all want to be supported. We don’t want to be limited by the standards people put on us based on face-value. We want people to believe in us. We want people to acknowledge our existence. And we don’t want to be written off as failures just because our way of doing things is different from the norm.

As a culture, we’ve changed what it means to be different into having a bad connotation. You like a different sports team? Well, I guess we can’t be friends anymore. What?! You’re voting for so-and-so?! I’m deleting you from my friends list on Facebook! You have different beliefs and values than me? I guess I am obligated to hate you and disagree with every single thing you say. When I say it like this, it sounds kind of weird and quite frankly, entirely ridiculous. But no matter if it’s what we believe or what we think we know about a person, we push that on others. You could almost consider it as the cultural norm of pontificating (although, not everyone is pompous and self-righteous about what they believe).

In my training for working with Wise (an organization that works with job coaches and supported employees), I heard so many sad stories of people who have disabilities not getting the support they needed just because the individual they were seeking help from assumed they knew all about the individual’s abilities, therefore setting the bar too low. Quite frankly, this makes me angry and ashamed because I know I’ve done this before and that it’s a common occurrence in the world today. Overall, it’s something that we need to change.

From my training, I learned a new term for a more positive way of thought and speech. It’s called “Person First Language” and it means exactly what it looks like. You put the person first in how you think and speak of them. You focus on their abilities rather than on how they may be limited. And I believe that this is something that we need to collectively do as a culture. I’ve mentioned this before in another article ("Including the Excluded”) but it’s something that I believe strongly in. It’s the fact that we put too much weight on what an individual (with or without a disability) cannot do that we end up disabling their abilities.

I believe that if we make this small change in the way we think, we’ll discover so much more about the people we interact with on a day to day basis. No one wants to be defined as something they feel they aren’t good at. So don’t do it. We should not be defined and identified by the failures we may have. Therefore, it’s time to change your thinking. It’s time to start thinking and speaking in Person First Language, both for yourself and for everyone else you meet.

Cover Image Credit: Matt McGee

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.

You won’t see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won’t laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won’t go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They’ll miss you. They’ll cry.

You won’t fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won’t get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won’t be there to wipe away your mother’s tears when she finds out that you’re gone.

You won’t be able to hug the ones that love you while they’re waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won’t be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won’t find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won’t celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won’t turn another year older.

You will never see the places you’ve always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You’ll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it’s not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don’t let today be the end.

You don’t have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It’s not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I’m sure you’re no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won’t do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you’ll be fine.” Because when they aren’t, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

For help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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If You've Ever Had The Flu, You Can Relate To This

Life is hard, but the flu hits harder.


Well everyone, for the first time ever I got the flu. In my eighteen years, never had I gotten the flu. As soon as I do not feel good, I instantly increase my vitamin C. I drink more juice, eat vitamin C gummies, you name it. Name anything to decrease the chance of illness, and I've probably done it.

But this time, it was not enough.

It was the week before spring break, and I of course then got the flu. Maybe it was the close quarters of sharing a dorm with someone. Maybe it was not eating as well as I should have. Maybe it was not being as active as I used to be back at home. Maybe it was all or none of the above.

Whatever it was, all I know is I got the flu and finally understood what people meant when they said it knocks you out.

Both my roommate and I got the flu and it was not fun at all. I was lucky to only miss two classes, although she did miss more. But that does not mean I didn't suffer.

There were plenty of times where I knew I should get up and keep working but it felt as if my body would not allow it. Walking from place to place took longer. I got tired faster. Math problems took double, if not more, time to do. We both were constantly disinfecting everything we could.

There were times I would start to feel better, but then would later find out the flu wasn't quite done with me yet. One of my friends said life is hard, but the flu hits harder.

Now that I have experienced the flu first hand, I wholeheartedly agree.

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