By Cassaundra Bell
November 3, 2016
We all have something.
This is a phrase that I commonly use when I speak about disability to those individuals for whom the concept of disability is entirely new, foreign or scary. In using unifying terms like We, and all, it is my hope that I am normalizing the disability experience bringing it back to the common human experience. I say this because I recognize that it’s tricky, this business of living, no matter who you are, or what struggles you face in your day-to-day. We all have something. Just because my challenges are visibly present in the form of a severe visual impairment, or a mobility disability, doesn’t make my life any more difficult, or special than the guy sitting next to me who doesnâ€™t have any disabilities, but has difficult financial stress, or a rough family past. Life isn’t perfect, no matter who you are.
We all have something. Not every person who has a disability would agree with this statement. In fact, I’m guessing that a lot of people reading this blog might be very upset at me for stating this. You might be angry that I am painting the experience of disability in such broad, unifying strokes. You might be angry that I use this statement to â€œnormalizeâ€ our experience to those who don’t have disabilities. You might argue that folks with disabilities shouldn’t have to use this type of language to make others comfortable. Disability isn’t something that people need to feel comfortable about, you might say. Disability has its own set of unique challenges and barriers, strengths and perspectives. Not everyone can understand or relate to this.
And I understand those arguments and any others that might be associated with them. I might even totally agree with them, someday, and look back on this blog post, and realize how very wrong I was! I am continually processing my identity as a disabled woman. Or a woman with disabilities. Or whatever is the correct way to talk about my identity and my impairments. I am still trying to figure out how to graciously speak on behalf of a community that I am a proud member of, without being militant and possibly alienating about our cause because that’s not my nature. I’d rather work out of a place of quiet connection, and if that means making people without disabilities feel comfortable in â€œWe all have something, then I will start there, and allow that vulnerability to lead into the deeper, important conversations of differences, struggles, and what needs to be done to ensure that we all have the ability to thrive.
I invite you into a conversation about this statement. I know we may not agree, but I am so excited to learn from your perspective, no matter what it is.