What does it mean to consider yourself disabled?

“Is it better to provoke stigma with support, or resist classification?”

This is the question Joanne Limburg (and everyone with a disability) asks when confronted with the question:

Do you consider yourself to be a disabled person?

Yes: No: Prefer not to say:

In my experience, it’s more common to encounter the question as one of whether you “have a disability,” which is a little better. A variable condition versus a decisive state. “Handicapped” has gone out of fashion.

Many of us can say both yes and no, feeling both as true and false.

This is especially familiar:

Like many autistic people – particularly those who, like me, have gone through most of our lives knowing that we were different but not knowing why – I have absorbed the lesson that it is safer to pass if one possibly can, and I’ve grown accustomed to putting in a great deal of exhausting effort in order to do so, with the result that if I disclose my autism I am often met with comments such as:

‘I would never have known.’

‘But you don’t look autistic.’

‘But you make eye contact.’

‘But I don’t find you hard to get on with.’

‘But you’re nothing like my son/sister/cousin/clients/pupils…’

Even the person who assessed me for Disabled Students’ Allowances a few years ago felt the need to point out that I ‘wasn’t like most of the people’ they saw. They also expressed surprise that I’d completed my first degree, commenting: ‘I would have expected someone with your profile to have dropped out.’

So many other good quotations and points! And in the end, a good answer:

Do you consider yourself to be a disabled person?

Yes: No: Prefer not to say:

Dan Knauss

Dan Knauss

Hi, this is my CMT blog, and I wrote this article. You can read about me and my CMT story. Get in touch if you’d like; I’m always happy to answer questions about CMT and the medical system.

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