From the Editor

As a child, the first person I met that had a “disability” became my very best friend for years. Sure, I noticed differences (she wore a body brace) but in my mind, it was just a part of who she was. In fact, a number of years later was the first time I saw her without it, and my only thought was how cute and petite she looked.

The other girl I met with a visible disability had lost a forearm somehow or other. Things I remember most about her? Her name was April and I thought that was about the coolest name ever. And she got to have apricot nectar at school every day instead of milk (lactose intolerant, I guess.) I was sooooo jealous of that. She had a hook that she used and it certainly didn’t limit her in any way. Again, it was just a part of who she was.

We can learn a lot by how a young child views disability. Part of the culture of identifying with a disability is the label itself. Disability is perceived as something a person is ashamed of, or a weakness – that it should be fixed. And that isn’t it at all. It’s just j a part of your identity, the same as wearing glasses or having curly hair.

Social media and the internet has changed how we connect with other people with disabilities. There are entire communities online where there are heated and engaging conversations about what it means to have a disability in a world that wasn’t built with that in mind.

People should feel free to proudly claim that disability. Sure there are certain components that are difficult: pain, anxiety, breathing, mobility. But would you change who you are? Being disabled is linked to your humanity, your empathy and your strength. It made you who you are today. You have a story worth telling, a road worth following, despite how society tries to tell you otherwise.

In reality, we are all just temporarily able-bodied. We move in and out of disability throughout our lifetimes. When does any of us feel “perfect”?

The number of people affected by disability is incredible. The largest minority in the United States, and the people who care for them: families, teachers, caregivers, and friends add up. We need to unify and learn to speak with one voice. If all the people connected with disability got together, we could influence legislation, funding, and all sorts of important things. Because it’s a part of all of us.

You can email me at vicki@dacnw.org

Vicki Leeper