My name is Emma and I’m a Scottish lassie. I’m a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a (fantastic) auntie, and a friend. I’m a writer, a blogger, a Muscular Dystrophy trailblazer, a Euan’s Guide Ambassador and disability campaigner. These are just some of my identities and labels I go by.
I’m also disabled.
Of all my labels ‘disabled’ is without a doubt the first thing people identify me as when they see me rolling down the street, doing my shopping or whatever it may be that I’m doing at the time. I reckon the wheelchair is a big giveaway.
Although, I have had a few baffled responses from customers in my work whenever I reversed my wheelchair from the desk and they caught a glimpse of my legs realising I was actually in a wheelchair. The look on their faces as they tell me “I didn’t realise you were in a wheelchair, I’m so sorry”. This would often make me feel a little uncomfortable and sometimes not sure how to respond. By saying how sorry they were implied they viewed my disability as something negative like my life was miserable or something to be pitied. They couldn’t be further from the truth.
Obviously, their first impression of me was that I was non-disabled as they only seen from the waist up until I moved away from my desk. Why would it surprise them so much? Why would it even matter if I was in a wheelchair or not? They would receive the same service from me either way.
Does Disability Define Me
A project on identities got me thinking about my identity and what it means to me. ‘Who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others.’ This is the definition of identity according to the Cambridge dictionary.
We all have an identity. It’s what makes us who we are. Muscular Dystrophy and my wheelchair are part of who I am. So does my disability define me? Yes, it does. Is that a bad thing? Only if I make it one.
For a very long time, I thought my disability didn’t define me. Maybe I got caught up in the whole “my disability doesn’t define me” mantra. Who knows? I certainly wasn’t ashamed or resentful of my disability. I guess I wanted people to see me not just my disability, but like I said, my disability is part of me. It can’t be hidden and it isn’t going anywhere. I’ve come to realise that it’s a big part of my life and I’m totally ok with that.
Would I be the same person if I could walk or live independently on my own? I’d like to think I would be, but with my disability, it’s brought its fair share of struggles as well as strengths and I have little quirks as a result of it. I’m proud of those quirks and you should be proud of yours. Without my disability, I wouldn’t have those qualities that make up my identity.
Growing up with a progressive muscle weakness condition has majorly impacted my life and the way I view the world in many ways. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, I’m subconsciously reminded that I’m disabled as I lay there unable to sit up and get myself out of bed. I must wait until my partner is awake before he physically gets me up and transfers me into my wheelchair.
My entire day then consists of strict routines and timings of people doing almost everything for me. From taking me to the toilet, showering, dressing, prepare meals, styling my hair, driving me from A to B to simple things like scratching my nose. I literally need help with everything in some form or another. So my disability does define me and in quite a big way.
Learning to Embrace My Disability
There are certainly challenges involved with having a disability, but there are so many awesome things that it has brought into my life too. Having to wait for someone to do everything for me has given me the patience of a saint. Trust me! That old saying “if you want something done right, do it yourself” is something I will never say because 9.9 times out of 10 I will need help with it anyway.
It has allowed me to meet some amazing people that have become great friends through my work as a disabled blogger and a Euan’s Guide Ambassador. I would never have met them otherwise, but I am so thankful that I have. It’s allowed me to focus on doing something that is powerful by raising awareness of disability and accessibility issues. It’s given me fantastic opportunities and the chance to work with amazing organisations, charities and much more.
My disability has never stopped me from doing what I want to do whether that be going to University, gaining employment, finding love and travelling to exciting destinations. It may take me a little longer to do these things, but I get there at my pace and on my own terms.
I’ve learned to embrace my disability and all that it entails. It’s not going to improve (unless some miracle cure is found) so it will always be part of me so why shouldn’t I embrace it in my own unique way.
How do you view yourself? What do you consider to make up their identity? What defines you?