Growing up disabled isn’t always a walk in the park (literally). Yes, sometimes there’s nice little perks like free parking and jumping the theme park queues, but they don’t always make up for the missed school trips, inaccessible parties and stares on the bus. There’s a part of growing up disabled that I believe is all about growing into your disability and all it stands for. At the grand old age of 25, I finally feel like I’ve had a good go at that and, although there are still bumps along the way, there’s a few things I wish I could tell my younger self that I now know:
1. Good intentions go a long way.
Not everyone will always get it right. They might use the wrong language or be quite ignorant in the assumptions they make about you and your life, but you’ll easily be able to distinguish those who mean well from those who don’t, and that’s half the battle. Be sure to educate and raise awareness kindly, always. Two wrongs will never make a right.
2. Travel is not out of bounds.
You might not ever book a one way ticket and jet off to the other side of the world without a plan, but you will live and work in some amazing places, and your wheelchair will find a way to fit in with your new exotic traveller lifestyle. You’ll become way more organised than you ever were for your GCSEs, and maybe even asked to talk and write about the importance of inclusive travel for all, too! There’ll be a few toileting issues with primary school plastic chairs in the Sinai desert, but no one needs to know about those…. What matters is the journey. Soak it all up and enjoy.
3. Despite what you might think, you’re still hot.
It’s been implied throughout your teenage years that disability is far from attractive and that you’ll struggle to find people who want to spend time with you, be that for a night or a lifetime. It won’t always be easy and you won’t always feel amazing, but you will have some amazing experiences and great people will find their way into your life when you least expect it. Stop worrying and searching, it’ll find you, all in good time. Enjoy your independence, have fun with your friends, study hard and smile until then.