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My Disability Does NOT Define Me

When I describe my physical traits, the first thing I say is definitely not disabled. It's almost always female first, Filipino second, and then physically disabled.

Even though my physical disability is an obvious identifier because I use a wheelchair, I've always felt like it's secondary. Does my disability affect my life every day? Of course it does, but I do not believe it's part of my identity, or at least it's not the biggest part of my identity. I view my wheelchair as an appendage. It's what I use to move around like someone who can walk uses their legs. An able-bodied person would never say that being able to walk has anything to do with their identity, so why would I say that about my wheelchair?

I think one of the reasons why I don't view my disability as a major factor in my life is that despite using a wheelchair, I try to focus on what I CAN do. I have full use of my upper body and require some assistance with personal care (i.e. getting in and out of my wheelchair and dressing). Prior to my scoliosis surgery, as a kid, I got in and out of my wheelchair by myself and was able to climb up and down a flight of stairs. I guess you can say my abilities are part of my identity but not really my disability.

I try to live my life like any other person (albeit with some modifications), which makes it difficult for me to completely identify as disabled. I understand that viewing my disability this way might look like I'm in denial about my disability, and maybe from time to time I might be in denial, but my physical disability is not something I'm conscious of 24 hours a day. If I thought about my disability that frequently I know I would be a complete headcase and likely really angry.

Since I can't change the fact that I have Spina Bifida, my focus is to live like a regular human being, who just happens to use a wheelchair. I've spent most of my life figuring out how to fit in a world that sees my wheelchair first, so I try to normalize my disability by not focusing on it and by being myself. The way I see it is that we live in a world that is so preoccupied with defining people based on their gender, race, religion, sexuality, disability, etc. and I personally hate those types of labels. I have so many other traits that define me that I would rather not focus on the one obvious thing that stares people in the face.

Black and white selfie


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