Friday, June 29, 2012

WHO Says...

What does the word disability mean to you?

I've been thinking a lot about what disability means lately thanks to a few blogs I've written, a few I've read, a few conversations I've had and a comment that was made to me. The comment is what started it all actually.

A person I have not yet met in real life but have been writing to online made a comment to me about my disability. And about my being an advocate for people with physical disabilities.

My first thought was 'wow, that's a really nice thing to hear' and it was quickly followed by a second thought: 'whoa wait a minute, I don't have a disability!'.

Do I?

I have type 1 diabetes which is a chronic disease.

Is it a disability?

I would hazard a guess that the first thing that comes to mind for many people when they think disability is probably a wheelchair. If they think a little harder, they might add blindness or deafness to the list. Perhaps MS? But really, what does the word disability mean?

According to the World Health Organization disability is “any restriction or lack (resulting from any impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being”.

I can run a half marathon in two hours and eighteen minutes but I have to stop several times to check my blood sugar and eat carbs or take insulin depending on the number I see on the glucometer. I perform the activity in the range that is considered normal (if by range they mean time) but I don't think my particular way of running a half marathon is in a manner that is considered normal for a human being (which or course then begs the question 'what is normal?' but we'll save that one for another day.) 

On the other hand, when I go swimming, my blood sugars behave so well that I can remove my insulin pump and swim for an hour without my blood sugars going up or down. So I swim in a range and a manner that is considered normal for a human being. 

Am I disabled when I run but not when I swim? 

And really, who cares? Does it matter whether I have a chronic disease and a disability or just a chronic disease? Does my life change somehow if I'm suddenly using the word disability as a way to define myself? 

I would argue that it does. 

I don't pretend to speak for other people who have type 1 diabetes but, because I have type 1 diabetes, I seek out others like me. I encourage others people like me. I share stories and experiences with other people like me. If there was a chronic disease parade - I would march behind the type 1 diabetes banner. 

If I have a disability, then am I not challenged to share my stories and experiences with other people with disabilities? To join the disability pride parade? 

Disability is a pretty big umbrella - just like chronic disease is a pretty big umbrella. I don't pretend to understand what it's like to have lupus or MS or arthritis just because I take insulin every day. I also can't possibly imagine what it's like to be unable to see, walk, hear or feel just because I am unable to make insulin.  

I have no answers to my questions. I just continue to have more questions. But it gets me thinking which raises my awareness which in turn forces me to think outside of my comfort zone. And that, my friends, is what growth is all about. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lenay Phillipps
    I am a cancer survivor and a domestic abuse survivor. I have three sons, two of whom have juvenile diabetes. I have worked in the healthcare industry in some capacity for the past 30 years and as an entrepreneur. I am now combining my passion for both fields in this blog with a goal to provide helpful information on health, wellness, stress, and internet marketing. My bigger goal is to help fund a cure for juvenile diabetes.I have shared my experience below
    A Natural Approach To Health