’If you could remove your disability, would you?’
**Cue inspiring sad music**
I don’t know. Next question.
Actually, of all the questions you could be asked as someone with a disability, this one isn’t terrible. If it’s on a Youtube video with 1m+ views, I guarantee the people questioned give an assertive ’No!’ and say phrases like ’It’s a gift’ or ’I still need to show the world how strong I am’ and the comment section will be full of people apparently inspired to do something sometime.
Nothing wrong with those answers, though. Me, I’d need a comprehensive break-down of the offer. If you mean we go back in time and redo my birth with a better doctor, then my answer is no. My disability has been present in so many life-decisions and goals that it has partly made me me, and I kind of like me.
If you mean I can transform overnight while retaining awareness of my life so far, then I’m flummoxed. Losing the cerebral palsy would be like losing a heavy backpack that I’ve carried around for so long that it may as well not weigh a thing: it’s a part of me. In there is where I’ve stored physical limitations, inventive adaptions and pieces of my identity. Without it I’d probably feel light on my feet but also a little empty.
But losing my disability would mean I’d also lose the clueless assumptions that come with it. Everyone has some kind of judgement stuck over them, but when you’re in a wheelchair it seems there’s 3 main types of disability you’re assumed to have: you can’t speak, are quite deaf and have the IQ level of a 3 year old. Even clever people have let themselves down by shouting in my ear reeeally slooowly in a quiet lecture room. Conversely other assumptions would be completely reversed. For example, even the most ignorant of people would assume I have man-parts and am as much a slave to biological desires as most humans, which would be handy to say the least. If I wasn’t disabled this selection of people would be more likely to have a normal conversation with me. Would we get along? Who knows.
Being newly ’abled’ would also bring on a cascade of new choices, and I’d master every single one of them. Give me a week of guitar practice and I’d be murdering Jimmy Page with my riffs. And my paintings would be considered more revolutionary than every revolution ever. Yeah, right. When you know you’ll never have the physical ability to strum a guitar let alone make one weep, it’s easy to overestimate the amount of passion and work you’d invest into becoming a rock God. If I couldn’t physically type out these letters, I’d be imagining myself becoming a world-renowned novelist, slogging away 24 hours a day on an old typewriter, sipping whiskey and looking miserable. To be honest I don’t know how I’d deal with a world of boundless choice. What can you do with a ’healthy’ body? Anything, and that would scare me.
When people watch those inspirational videos – ’girl walks on crutches for first time’ (because she has the ability and it’ll improve her independence and the physios made her do it…) – the majority are looking for a kick up the butt. They want to think to themselves, ’If this disabled child can walk a few steps, what’s stopping me from beating Bolt at the Olympics/finding the ultimate antidote to death/rebuilding the Brazilian rainforest from scratch?’ Here’s the answer. Ready? You lack the commitment, skill or passion, and you can only accomplish so many goals to such an extent in one short lifetime, each of which has room for failure at every bend.
Are you inspired yet? Seriously though, if I really could achieve whatever I wanted to achieve I’d struggle to achieve anything at all. If I visited a sweet shop and saw hundreds of sweets I’ve never tried before (and I have no allergies), I’d rather buy out the whole shop than be forced to decide on 3. Tell me, in addition, that I’m only allowed one visit to this shop and every sweet I see is a final edition never to be sold anywhere ever again and I’ll snap like a piece of candy cane.
If you could remove your disability, would you? This isn’t a question with a yes or no answer, it’s a hypothetical conundrum which I’m glad I’ll never have to face.