Disability and Identity

Here’s a question for you, when you think of me, what do you label me as?

Let me tell you the first things that come into my head… I’m a daughter, a friend, a cousin, a niece and a granddaughter. I’m a blogger, an Assistive Technology Officer, a disability activist and a premature birth survivor.

Oh, and I’m also registered as severely sight impaired (blind) so I’m disabled. I have no useful vision, so this has a rather big impact on my life.

A photo of Holly at the top of the Rockefeller Centre in New York

Out of my many labels, being disabled is the first thing that people sometimes may identify me as when they meet me, or see me walking with my cane or being sighted guided.

Some people don’t even think that I’m blind when they first meet me, or others think it’s such a shame and simply don’t know what to do, they talk to the person that I’m with rather than me. Some people pity me, expressing that “oh things must be so difficult for you”.

Yes, things are difficult, I have faced many challenges and continue to do so, but I do not let my disability stop me from getting to where I want to be in life, I do not let it control me or don’t let it stop me from doing the things that I want to do.

People also think it’s ‘inspirational’ or ‘incredible’ that I attended mainstream education, graduated university and now have a job. Think about it for a minute, why does having a disability stop me from achieving those things? It doesn’t. I have the same dedication, determination and drive than non-disabled people, some may say that I am more determined to achieve such goals. Others may be rather intrigued by my visual impairment and ask me questions, which I am always happy to answer.

Does my disability define me?

For a long time, I was caught up in the notions surrounding the saying “don’t let your disability define you”, I wanted people to look beyond my disability and see me for who I am, but thinking about it, my disability is part of the person I am, it’s helped shaped me into the person I am today. Would I be a different person if I didn’t have a visual impairment? That’s a hard one to answer, in some ways yes, I would, but in other ways I wouldn’t and that’s absolutely fine. What I’m trying to say is that it’s pretty obvious that my visual impairment has a rather big impact on my life.

Is being disabled part of my identity?

A project on identities got me thinking about my identity and whether being disabled is part of that. We all have an identity, everyone’s identity is different, it’s what makes us the person we are. My visual impairment is part of my identity. From the moment I wake up, I can’t see the world like everyone else, I have to do things slightly different, I need help with certain tasks and in order to get around as part of my daily routine, I use a cane. I can’t drive to where I need to get to, I have to get someone to take me or rely on other forms of transport. Therefore, my disability defines me and is very much part of my identity. Is this a bad thing? In my eyes, it most certainly isn’t.

Having a visual impairment has given me many characteristics that I may have not have had if I was fully sighted, it’s made me have a backbone, it’s taught me to never give up and fight for my rights and what I deserve, it’s made me appreciate things for what they really are, and it’s given me the desire and determination to help others.

What does being disabled mean to me?

When people think of the word ‘disability’, they often think of the negative connotations surrounding it, they often think of disabled people being sad, lonely, staying at home all day and not living fulfilling lives. However, these are often wrongly perceived ideas and very far from reality. For many disabled people like myself, having a disability can be rewarding, lead to new experiences, and can make you see the world in a different way. Don’t get me wrong, there are days where we often wish we didn’t have to face constant battles, and would love to switch our disability off like a light but this isn’t the majority of the time. That can’t happen anyway so you’ve got to get on with it, at the end of the day, life is what you make it.

Being registered as severely sight impaired (blind) has allowed me to learn skills such as braille in four variations – standard English, music, French and German braille, learn how to use various screen-readers, the ability to touch type and also use a long cane.

Quote in  braille that says "believe in yourself"

Having a disability has given me the chance to carry out some brilliant opportunities, both in terms of blogging and my personal life. I’ve also met some of the most important people in my life and that’s through having a disability so I am forever grateful.

My disability has also given me the chance to raise awareness through blogging, work with various organisations and charities, help others in similar situations and so much more! If I didn’t have a visual impairment then I would never have started this little blog.

Having a visual impairment has never stopped me doing what I want to do in life, from getting a degree, gaining employment, going to concerts to see my favourite bands/artists and just generally living a normal life like sighted people. I may not experience it in the same ways as non-disabled people, but I’m okay with that.

Holly in her graduation outfit: green dress, black gown, black graduation hat and heels

Holly's degree certificate

I’m never going to be able to see, unless some miracle cure is invented, if it happens then that’s amazing, but if it doesn’t, then I’m okay with that. My disability will always be a part of me so why shouldn’t it be a part of my identity?

Why not check out these brilliant videos from Umber,Laurence and John who share what disability and identity means to them.

If you have a disability, do you view it as part of your identity or not? If not, what makes you who you are? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

Holly x

*Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Bathing Solutions but all views are my own.

7 Comments

  1. February 16, 2018 / 9:27 am

    This is one of my favourite posts of yours Hols. So honest and truthful and I can 100% relate to a lot of the things you said xxx

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      February 16, 2018 / 10:34 pm

      Thank you so much lovely! Really glad you can relate xxx

  2. February 16, 2018 / 9:22 pm

    “What do you label me as?” I think of you as Holly. Next might be blogger. I think of you as traveling to places that interest me. Somewhere along after those would come blind. Then I think of you as a person I’d like to meet.

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      February 16, 2018 / 10:35 pm

      Aww these are lovely, thank you

  3. February 28, 2018 / 11:45 am

    You have asked a very important question. Ideally disability must not be part of anyone’s identity. But unfortunately the world is not perfect.

    • lifeofablindgirl@gmail.com
      Author
      February 28, 2018 / 11:53 am

      Very true

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