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What does disability look like?

What does disability look like?

The Abled Lawyer


Reading time: three minutes

I can’t quite correctly term what I experienced last weekend. However, processing it in one of my blogs felt like the perfect place to express my thoughts and experiences.

Last Saturday, I needed to go to the shops to get some new pieces of workwear. Before I left the house, I discussed with my partner the fact that I didn’t want to wear makeup, because I recently had my hair dyed and it was still curly from the hairdressers. Also, I was conscious that I was wearing a pair of jeans and a smart looking blouse. The reason I was conscious of putting makeup on was that deep down I felt nervous in case I received derogatory comments from the public about my disability. For example, I feared that people would see me with my hair done, makeup on and question whether I am disabled or not.

However, I exclaimed, “No, disabled people can still wear makeup, have their hair curly and wear a nice-looking blouse. It doesn’t make me any less disabled or my condition non-existent.” The decision was made, I stopped myself from over-thinking and worrying about something that shouldn’t have to be worried about and left the house.

After one shop, I was at a loss. I’m terrible at finding workwear…but that’s another story! I wanted to go to another shop, but it was across the other side of the retail park which I couldn’t walk to. That day I was in significant amounts of pain and my pesky left knee was trying to dislocate. I made the decision to get into my car and drive to the second shop, as walking wasn’t an option.

As I was slowly reversing out of my disabled space, I had my windows open and the car next to me had its passengers getting out of the car. One of them, who was sat in the back seat, said to the person in the front “Well, is she disabled then?” Because the person in the front had seen me put away my blue badge, the person coyly responded “Yes, she is.” Unfortunately, this comment was made loud enough for me to hear.

My gut dropped and I felt uncomfortable and, in all honesty, disappointed. Instantly, the thought “Why do I have to justify I’m disabled; my condition is real but today you can’t see it.” The reason why the comment hurt more that day (I’ve had so many in the past), was that I expected it.

Feeling the need to justify I’m disabled and that I do indeed need a blue badge just adds to the many barriers I have to break down on a regular basis. It’s exhausting. This experience leads me to question what does disability look like anyway? The answer is that disability doesn’t look like one thing. Even people with the same condition as me present differently.  

Adding to this, if it’s a day where I’m not using my wheelchair or other mobility aids my disability can be hidden. But to be judged solely from my appearance out of the car window, or anytime for that matter, is unacceptable. What that person didn’t see, was later that day, when I had a horrendous pain flare and spent most of the weekend on the sofa unable to move.  

I’m still learning what to term this experience and most importantly how to handle uncomfortable situations going forwards.

I conclude this article with the time old saying, never judge a book by its cover.

Read more from The Abled Lawyer with this Blog post: 'Disability Pride Month: what is it?'.