Here’s the thing about being disabled. You become a part of an invisible group whether you want to or not. Even if you’re very visible out in society. Even when people constantly point out your limp or ask about your wheelchair or ask about your disability…you’re still in an invisible group that society totally forgets about. You’re not factored into entire industries (aka the movie/TV industry) and no one even bats an eye at it. No one talks about the lack of disabled people in every single facet of media. No one really thinks about what our needs are when it comes to health insurance rights, they just think about what they don’t want to deal with or pay for. People use the handicapped stall in the bathroom because they think it’s bigger for their convenience or they really like that “cool bar” that’s next to the toilet. Even better…they use it as a changing room. It never even occurs to them that that stall may actually serve a purpose for someone else. When people constantly complain about how horrible their lives are (which granted, you don’t have to be disabled to have a crappy life), they don’t even think about the person sitting across from them who was born with an incurable muscle disease. Nearly all of social media and the news doesn’t take into account disabled people. Everything is about working out, or skydiving, or active travel or whatever. No one ever stops to think that maybe people exist who can’t do all of those things and maybe, just maybe they deserve to be catered to sometimes. To give them a voice. Social media has certainly helped give us a voice in a lot of ways. Without it, the mainstream media would completely ignore us I think.
There are many frustrating parts about having a disability but for me, one of the most frustrating is not even being a thought that occurs to people. I used to want to be invisible. I didn’t want people to notice me and to notice that I was different. I just wanted to be like everyone else. For someone to not even give my disability a second thought would have been a joy. But that’s not who I am anymore. I want to be something that occurs to other people. I want to be included. I want my needs to be considered by society. I want to have all of the same chances and experiences as other people. It would have been nice to even be able to dream of being an actress because it felt like a reality someone like me could achieve. I’m realistic because I have to be. The world hasn’t given me any other choice.
When you’re born with a disability you have to talk twice as loud just to be heard. You have to spend your entire life asserting your needs and explaining yourself to people because the majority won’t understand or know, which isn’t always their fault. There will be entire cultures that view you as a second class citizen, as someone flawed or born with a scourge. You’ll get constantly stared at and then someone will speed around you because you’re not walking fast enough, never even thinking there might be a reason for it. You won’t be able to get through a day without thinking about the fact that you’re disabled because you’re constantly being reminded of it.
We’re all a little self-focused in life I think, myself included. We’re paying such close attention to how we act, what we say or what we do that sometimes we forget other people exist too. But we live in an age of information now. Most people everywhere should know about people with disabilities. They should know about the ADA here in the US. They should know what that bathroom stall is for. I don’t accept the “they just don’t know better” excuse anymore however harsh that may be. If I can figure it out, if those of us with disabilities have to go through so much more effort just on a day-to-basis, then everyone else can put in a little extra effort too.