Description: faded painted handicapped symbol on the pavement (Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash)

When people hear the word “disability”, they think wheelchair, cane, deaf, blind, injury, etc. They can see it and think it mostly happens to old people or people who have been in a traumatic accident. Although those are all valid reasons for a disability, there is so much more to it.

Disability is both invisible and visible illnesses. It’s being stricken with a disease at the worst possible time in your life. It’s waiting anywhere from a month to a decade or more for answers. It’s not being believed by doctors. It’s being yelled at by doctors.

Disability includes mental illnesses, whether they exist on their own or presented themselves after being diagnosed with a physical illness. It’s isolation and fear. It’s spending a whole night crying because you can’t believe how much depression is affecting you. It’s feeling hopeless because your every action is controlled by your mind.

Disability is something not a lot of abled people even bothering to understand. It’s being told you don’t look sick enough. It’s being criticized for parking in a handicapped spot if you don’t have a mobility aid. It’s being told you’re too young to be sick.

Disability is a lack of accessibility. It’s being denied access because you’re not “disabled enough”. It’s not being believed. It’s frustrated sighs after being told you don’t need better accommodations. It’s abled people thinking it’s unfair that you have certain accommodations that make your life just a little easier.

Disability is being used as “inspiration porn”. It’s doing the bare minimum and being praised. It’s abled people caring about your accomplishments but not your basic rights. It’s being seen as not human unless you do something “extraordinary” for someone with your condition. It’s being seen as an inspiration and not for any other aspect of your life. It’s the only people caring about disabled person lack of accessibility are other disabled people.

Disability is not being included by most feminists. It’s not being able to go to marches because they just aren’t accessible. It’s about telling people we need to be included in their activism and being yelled at. It’s about people seeming to care but not speaking up when we face injustice.

Disability is rarely being represented in media. It’s having barely any representation of people with chronic illnesses. It’s being played by abled actors who have no idea what it’s like. It’s being told disabled actors can’t be cast because most are unknown and that will ruin the success if the movie.

Disability is all of these things and so much more. I have Crohn’s Disease and Social Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s at age eleven. I have dealt with so much self-hatred and insecurity. I battled depression and suicidal thoughts for years. My diagnosis was a secret for the longest time. I still have trouble telling people. I’m not what you think of when you think “disability”, but I am disabled.

Living with one or more disabilities is hard. No one should have to be denied access or be treated differently because they have something they cannot control. We deserve to be seen. We deserve to be included. Most importantly, we deserve to be treated like human beings. Just because we are sick for the rest of our lives doesn’t mean we are less of a person. Treat us like you would someone who is temporarily disabled. We deserve compassion and respect. At least give us that.

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