Sunday, December 13, 2009

Am I Disabled? (Part 1)

It really depends on who you ask. According to the government? The laws aren't written especially clearly, but I seem to fit their definition sometimes. My school doesn't classify people, but I get my academic accommodations from the school disability specialist. My friend J jokes that when we go to the cafeteria we should get our food for free because "you're disabled." My best friend has been kind of avoiding talking about it, but she does know that I fit some definitions. She seems to agree with me -- in terms of identity, that's something I should get to decide.

So what do I think? I'm not entirely sure. I don't like the word disability. I feel guilty taking the label, because there are a lot of people with much more serious things going on. But then there are the weeks my health is extra bad and I'm stuck in my dark silent room avoiding stimuli for even more time than I'm used to.... Or the joking conversations where we try to find things that don't cause me pain and have a lot of trouble coming up with something..... Or the times I realize to what extent I plan everything I do around my body....

I know that when I read about the social model of disability, I see how society is set up to view me and treat me as lesser because of my health. And I see a place for myself and want a place in the disability rights movement. So does that make me disabled? I'm still on my way to deciding, and I have a right to change my mind. For now, I'm just saying, "according to some definitions" and I'm going to keep reading, writing, and talking about what disability and disableism means in this society and in my life.


  1. Are you disabled? Jeeze, that's like answering, for tax purposes, whether or not you have dependents. Up until last year there were five different definitions of "dependents" for various sections of the tax law. It's an eye roller.

    As far as the IRS (my former employer) is concerned, I am disabled because I can no longer do the job I was hired to do. Social Security has different requirements. And getting that little blue hanger for the about subjective definitions on the part of doctors who sign off on those things!!

    You're right, there are lots of definitions of disabled. And letting someone else classify you...ick!!! I know what you're talking about and I want to tell you "Right On!!" for not letting someone else define you.

    So you can say "according to some definitions", you can say "none of your business", you can say "I'm differently-abled"...any and all of it works because you're not letting someone else dictate your identity. Good for you!

  2. I know how you feel as well. I find it difficult to identify myself as "disabled." There are so many ways to be disabled (physically, intellectually,etc) and the definition covers such a broad spectrum. To find a place where I fit in and can comfortably declare that I have a real "disability" is mind numbing.

    I like Kathy's choice of words "differently abled." I have a son with an intellectual disability and I have always thought of him as that way. I think it is a good idea to apply that definition to everybody.

    Everyone functions at their own level of ableness. Its just sad that when you have a chronic illness you often have to fight and declare yourself disabled to get any support or help.