I have a face, a countenance that I reserve for speaking with doctors who are quick to discount me and teachers who doubted my intelligence. It’s the same one I wore as a teenager in my individualized education programs. Behind my unwavering expression, I keep a mindset of determination and self-worth. The discrimination I’ve experienced within both the medical and educational communities has taught me to be firm, stern, outspoken, and unwilling to compromise my well-being.
It seems counterintuitive that I have often been asked, told, and expected to sacrifice my health for the sake of my education and healthcare. How could this be? In short, the reason is that as an individual with a disability, my life is worth little to society. Assumptions that minimize the humanity of people with disabilities stipulate that we don’t mean much. These beliefs are so deeply ingrained in our culture that we often fail to recognize the pervasiveness of discrimination that is happening around us every day.
The unacceptable degradation of people with disabilities due to erroneous belief systems is something that manifests in myriad ways. An undercurrent of ableism comprises the very foundation on which our society was created. Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act that ensures equal access to public facilities for people with disabilities, the world remains overwhelmingly inaccessible.
In a time of accelerated technological innovation, I find it abhorrent that public venues fail to provide elevators and accessible bathroom stalls. Mirrored to me time and time again is the disrespect of people with disabilities, the notion that we don’t belong where others do.
As I get ready to leave my home and venture into town, it often feels as if I’m preparing for battle. The anticipation of the methods by which I will be reduced to the collection of undesirable attributes, otherwise known as my disability, fills me with dread. Resistance from the world seems omnipresent, a phenomenon that I can’t escape and struggle to define. Advocating on my own behalf for basic human rights year after year weighs heavily on my heart. In how many ways can I attempt to convince the world that I belong here? From how many people will I receive the message that I don’t?
I continue to confront each day with the best intentions for my life. I infuse every experience with the expectation of acceptance, inclusion, and respect. I attempt to create a more welcoming world for individuals of all abilities, advocating on behalf of myself and others. Despite my highest ideals and hopes for an egalitarian society, the path I have taken of an unchosen warrior is apparent from my facial expression. I am tired of fighting, of being perceived as a burden, a castaway kept behind closed doors.
Nonetheless, every fiber of my existence clings to the opportunity for empowerment, education, and unfurling of the fist clenched around ableism. I believe that though we wear our warrior faces, we shouldn’t have to do so.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disorder. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.