Don’t define me by my disability.
I am a girl. A daughter. A sister. A friend. A cousin. A blogger. I work casually at Mamamia. I am a few weeks away from completing the Sydney Blackmores Marathon with the help of my family and friends.
I also happen to have a physical disability – Cerebral Palsy (CP) – which means I use a wheelchair for getting around.
I am many things other than a person with a disability – and yet that is constantly how I am defined. That’s something I have to deal with, and it is one of the reasons why I write a blog in an effort to change public perceptions around the capabilities of people with disabilities.
I am 16 and I am currently studying at high school. With roughly 800 teenagers all in the same place, it’s not surprising that sometimes I hear language I wish I didn’t. And I’m not talking about expletives.
I’m talking about words like retarded and spastic or even cripple to describe someone’s lack of intelligence, behaviour or physical ability.
The type of CP I have is referred to as spastic diplegia. It means tightness in the muscles of the lower body with an effect that varies on the muscles of the upper body as well. Spasticity is tightness in the muscles and can be extremely frustrating.
Hearing someone referred to as a “spastic” because of their erratic behaviour or inability to do something is something that makes my blood boil.
It is used as a playful insult that has no consequences, but what it really does for someone like me is enforces society’s misconception of people with disabilities, whether it be physical or mental.
And then there’s retard.
It’s meant to be a slur that indicates slow mental capacity or understanding and is thrown around just as carelessly as any swear word.