Who defines you?

By Cassaundra Bell

November 3, 2016

Disability.  It’s a word whose definition has marked my entire life. I have Cerebral Palsy. I am legally blind. I am on the board of a non-profit organization which helps those with similar disabilities. I work at Disability Advocates of Kent County.  On my personal social media accounts, I write about my daily experiences as a woman with disabilities, and I am constantly interested in how our current political and cultural climate affects individuals with disabilities.  My whole life is saturated with this word, “disability”, and yet, at 27 years old, I am daily trying to figure out the reality of what “Disability” means.

What does that definition mean to the individual and to our community? To humanity? What does it mean to identify as a person with a disability, to advocate for the use of person-first language, but to also understand that not everyone in the Disability Community subscribes to this paradigm? What is it mean to think about systems that cater to the able-bodied, but also recognize that my physical limitations are real and often problematic? How do others think about these questions?

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers to any of these questions. If I’m honest, I’m still figuring out where I stand day-to-day when it comes to my identity as a woman with a disability, or as a member of the Disability Community. The important thing for me, I think, is to remain vulnerable in expressing the unknown. To remain humble in my opinions, ponderings, and questions. I recognize that people may disagree with me on any of these opinions or questions that I raise.

I’m writing this blog because the conversation about Disability matters to me. I’m writing this blog because I have a personal interest in expanding every conversation in my life — arts, politics, social justice, etc. — to include the perspective of people who live with disabilities. We’ve had our civil rights movement in waves, with the passage of the ADA as a pinnacle moment of that movement, but I think we still have miles to go, and I truly believe we are only at the very beginning of a societal shift in the perception of disability. I think that blogs like this one –conversations like those that Dis.Is presents — are the sparks to ignite this shift, and I’m incredibly excited to be a part of this.

So, what is disability? Well, let’s start the conversation.

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