Saturday, August 29, 2015

You Don't Look Disabled

Someone recently remarked in a Facebook group for people with service dogs that she likes it when people tell her she doesn't look disabled.  They will ask her if she is training her service dog, and when she says no, he is her service dog, they seem surprised and say that she doesn't look disabled.  I have the same experience of people asking if I am training Isaac and sometimes they tell me I don't look disabled, but I don't like it.

She said it makes her feel good because she doesn't want to look disabled.

It's not that I want to look disabled, exactly.  What does "disabled" look like, anyway?  But I am disabled.  I want to look like me.  I want to look like myself.  I want to look like who I am.

But beyond that.  What's wrong with looking disabled?  I think people don't want to "look disabled," whatever that means, because they think looking disabled as well as being disabled are "bad" things.  People sometimes say "you don't look disabled" like it's a compliment, not only because they think "looking disabled" would be a bad thing and therefore an insult, they think being disabled is a bad thing.

But I don't think it's a bad thing to be disabled.  Sometimes it's a hard thing.  A challenging thing.  A frustrating thing.  But none of that means it's a bad thing to be.  And it's not hard or challenging or frustrating all the time, and a lot of the challenges and frustrations come not from the actual disability but from the society in which we live, which is not very accessible or welcoming.

I don't mind if people know I am disabled.  And maybe that's what "looking disabled" is all about.  If you "look disabled," people will know.  

Anyway.  Maybe I don't look disabled.  But I am.  And it's not a compliment to tell me I don't look like it.


  1. What an odd thing you choose as your claim to fame. How about your gifts as a poet? I AM ALSO DISABLED BUT THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO ME THAN THAT!

    1. I don't choose being disabled as my claim to fame. There is much more to me than my disability, of course. But that is part of who I am. Being a poet is another part. Being a vegetarian is part. Being pagan is part. Being bisexual is part. Being a woman is part. Being a service dog handler is part. These are all important parts of who I am. I think all those parts of me are OK.