Disability and Me – International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which this year has the theme ‘Not All Disabilities Are Visible’. As the Students with Disabilities officer, I thought I would share my experiences of being disabled in an ableist world.
When I was born in 1978, the view for many of someone with a disability was something you can see. Usually because the person is using a wheelchair. This led to me not realising a lot of troubles I was experiencing were through a distorted lens. Even wearing glasses was not telling the truth. At school, I was miserable due to bullying and isolation by my small school year, which affected my mental health. Events at home only serving to make this worse. I have mentored, taught and tutored others with disabilities since I was 16. However, to begin to understand my own disabilities, it took me at least another 16!
Dyspraxia and Me
One of my disabilities is dyspraxia, which my dad as a child neurologist diagnosed when I was 5. Many people still haven’t heard of it or know what it is. Also, it is often labelled as developmental, and a learning disability, people think it is something you grow out of when you leave school. Equally, as it is invisible they do not get how clumsy to sensitive it makes you. I also miss words out when I am speaking or writing. Equally I find judging traffic difficult to know when to cross the road, or hear when someone is washing their hands as I cannot filter out certain sounds. Finding fellow dyspraxics has led me to understand it better, and try to develop healthier coping mechanisms.
Discovering I am blind
Another disability you see but do not see is my eyesight. I knew growing up, the eyesight in my right was poor due to an astigmatism in it. Equally, knowing bright and flashing lights due to my dyspraxia were a major ‘no’ as it can lead to epileptic fits (as a music lover this makes gig going a nightmare). However, an optician in England realised the scar long believed to be from an eye operation was not. My cornea was like a child had coloured it in. This led to the discovery I have no eyesight in it, thus blind in one eye – I was 30. This is the most frustrating in daily life, applying for jobs that want a driving licence, but you cannot drive due to your disability.
Present and Future
Reading this you can tell why one of my hobbies isn’t tennis – I don’t see the ball and coordination of the racket is another! Disability is more than an image of someone in a wheelchair. However, just because I cannot do something one way, doesn’t mean I cannot, like tying my shoelaces. The post COVID-19 world inclusive, accessible and sustainable for all. Giving my fellow students with disabilities a voice at SRUC is an honour, which I will always treasure, and being part of SRUCSA improving the student experience for everyone.