Yesterday, someone I consider a close friend used the phrase, ‘even with your disability’ when referring to what I have done and what I can do. I understand that he meant it as a compliment, but that kind of wording – and that belief – is very hurtful.
I have three degrees and more than ten years of work experience. I have worked as an editor, writing tutor, market researcher, administrator, and journalist. I recently started new work as an in-house editor for a publisher, and my disability has no effect on my work or ability to work. It never has. It doesn’t even factor in, yet people often consider it an accomplishment that I am able to work with a disability.
The same applies to my education. I earned both of my graduate degrees abroad, and people whom I tell don’t even believe that a disabled person could have a graduate degree, nevermind studied in another country. I don’t consider these things exceptional or even worthy of disbelief or surprise because, again, my disability has never affected my ability to learn and my education. It never even affected my desire or decision to go to England for school. I went to England because I wanted to marry an Englishman (and I still do). My agent jokingly said to me, ‘You went to London to get your MRS degree.’
A couple of weeks ago, someone else whom I love very much told me she’d had the following exchange with another person who didn’t know me that well: ‘she has a disability’ ‘but she’s so gorgeous’ as though these two things are incongruous or mutually exclusive. Anyone with a disability can be beautiful, and many people who do not have disabilities are unattractive. One of my best friends, who uses a wheelchair, is one of the prettiest people I know. Disability does not equal ugliness, and a disabled person can be beautiful without the consideration of disability ever coming into play.
It just makes me mental.