Disability, the poor relation of Diversity

Who was your Idol growing up? Was there someone you related to above all others?  Did you want to be like Jimmy Dean on the cover of a Magazine?

I was a gorky lookin’ teenager, with a mousey brown bowl cut, glasses that I thought looked wonderful, but actually made me look like a thirteen-year-old Dame Edna Everage, orthopaedic shoes especially designed for the feet of a Spastic genetically, inherited goofy teeth from my Mother’s side that would later require braces, all topped off with callipers and an NHS Wheelchair that always felt too big.

I wasn’t the prettiest of girls and if you were to tell me now, I was pretty, I’d find myself hard pushed to agree with you. I’ve had a deep and meaningful love affair with hair dye for nearly 15 years and I learned the tips and tricks of makeup application at a very early stage in the teenage era.

The lack of disability representation I was exposed to as a teenager, and in fact as a child, has left me, or at least contributed to battles with bouts anxiety and the feeling of low self-confidence I experience as an adult. There were no TV shows featuring anyone with a disability, no magazines with our faces.

Unlike today, Kids television didn’t show children with disabilities. Now these days you can’t move for disability on Children’s Television, something that to me is fantastic. And is helping to have those questions kids have about disability early answered, so it doesn’t grow to be an elephant in the room.

It’s always seems to me that Disability is the forgotten characteristic in the diversity spectrum, the poor relation that nobody wants to consider which always amazes me. After all, disability will come to the population as your body ages and you are physically unable to do that party trick you did when you were young.

It’s now 2018 and I am a woman in my early Thirties, yet here I am still feeling like I’m that Teenager nobody is bothered about hearing about, the girl who struggles to see real disabled people on TV and in Movies where instead able-bodied folk use it to stretch themselves in a bid to win awards.

People talk about Fat shaming and photoshopping in Magazines, and while I empathise, it has been up until recently very difficult for me to get too upset because I am a curvy girl but I’m also in a wheelchair, that makes it a very difficult thing to view not because I’ve got curves. But because disability isn’t seen to be beautiful and that is something we need to change.

I might not think of myself as a stunner, but I know that my body goes through things that would be unimageable for able bodied people to comprehend. I ache, like, constantly. I wake up and I ache and go to bed with the same ache I had that morning, my hands are useless and will often decide to cramp or drop anything I’m holding seemingly whenever thy like… and don’t get me started on buttons on a shirt, it takes forever.

I have to go to bed whenever the urge takes me and stretch my body, often meaning I am in bed for 7:30 most nights and if I know there’s a late night coming up chances are I’ll suffer the next day.

None of that matters though, not really, not the lack of role models or representation, or the fact that society doesn’t see me as beautiful. I am here, I exist, and I will be my own god-dam role model.


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