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Speaking Up For Myself

Be assertive sign on a notebook

People with disabilities are not always given the opportunity to speak up or give their opinions by family, doctors, teachers, etc. It is often easier to have others speak for you or make decisions for you.

Over the years, I've learned the importance of advocating for myself and being assertive, but it has taken years to get to this point. As someone who is innately shy, it is something I've struggled with throughout my life. Having Spina Bifida means I have limited mobility and require assistance with my daily living.

Despite being relatively independent, growing up, I relied heavily on my parents and siblings for assistance with dressing, transferring in and out of my wheelchair, taking a shower, and using the bathroom. Even if I drop something, I often need help reaching it because I have trouble bending over.

As I got older and moved out of my parents' house, I had to learn to ask my personal support workers to help me with my daily living. This was not an easy thing to learn. Going from the comfort of your family, who knows exactly what you need and when you need it, to having virtual strangers helping me multiple times a day was an adjustment. I quickly learned that they cannot read my mind and my best approach in receiving the care I require is to be as direct with them as possible. Mind you, it took me years before I actually got comfortable directing my care. Even over a decade later, there are times when I'm hesitant to ask for things because I don't want to sound demanding, or worse - a bitch.

It's funny how being assertive is often perceived as being demanding or rude. Over the years I've started to realize that in most cases being assertive simply means that you are confidently asking for something in a polite, non-threatening way. In my case, when I ask for assistance from a personal support worker it's because I physically cannot do something. There's nothing wrong with that. No one should ever feel shame for being honest about what you need to be live and be happy.


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