Disability is a dirty word. It shouldn’t be, especially considering as of 2012, the US Census estimated there were around 56.7 million folks living with disability. As the population increases and ages, that number has no doubt gone up. The fact people are reluctant to use the word is the root to erasure of this diverse group.
I’ve carried it for as long as I can remember in the form of dyslexia. As I learned how to leverage my unique neurology, I also had a hard time identifying as disabled. The mainstream picture of disability is that of visible helplessness. That picture erased a huge part of my identity. My body has always been healthy, barring minor chronic issues. The only time I struggled with mobility was when I repeatedly sprained the same ankle one year.
So, why does it matter?
On a practical level, it matters because we need accommodations to function in the world. Take dyslexia for example. Dyslexic children face extra barriers to their education. Some school districts refuse to use the word “dyslexia”. Many schools resist testing students or providing IEPs (Individualized Education Plans).
However, dyslexia is often not identified until adulthood. Testing for learning disabilities is expensive and time consuming. Because these disabilities aren’t classified as medical, health insurance won’t cover testing. When someone is already struggling with money, diagnosis becomes another barrier to a better life. When I returned to college, I needed to be reassessed. My doctor gave me a discount, but I still spent over a year paying down the debt.
Regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race, income-level, or any other demographic, disability is a part of the story. Disability must be honored. Our struggle is worth talking about and our achievements are worth celebrating. We are here, and we are here to stay.