This first week has been absolutely packed with speakers who not only give of their time, but present incredible messages that inspire, challenge, and call for action. The passion these speakers use to deliver their points is astounding. Their words of wisdom, anecdotes, and simple facts have been both informative and influential, and all of the speakers have helped to make this first week so enjoyable.
Two particular topics that keep emerging are identifying as a person with a disability and having disability pride. For me, the identification aspect has never been a problem, even an option. Being born blind, I never had to go through an adjustment period. Relying on a cane and being unable to make eye contact, hiding my blindness is simply not feasible. Having an older brother who is also blind makes it easy to identify, as I do not face the isolation that being disabled typically causes. Thus, having a disability is part of my life, and it is a part of my life I accept willingly.
Yet, the idea of disability pride still seems foreign to me. I rarely complain about being blind, but I feel no particular pride, either. Furthermore, I am unconvinced I would choose to be blind if I had such an option. Certainly, I feel this pride when people with disabilities enjoy success, but I know a similar pride when my non-disabled friends succeed, too. Whether good or bad, I have learned to regard people as people, not being overly concerned about a person’s disability status.
Perhaps this is because I have rarely associated with a disabled community. Growing up in a neighborhood with no other disabled children aside from my brother, being in classes with “regular” students since pre-school, and building a community in college consisting of no other students or faculty possessing visible disabilities, I seldom have belonged to a concrete community of disabled people. I definitely have pride for the communities to which I belong, such as my high school, college, and Portuguese family. Thus, as I continue to live, work, and learn with my fellow AAPD interns, creating a community of disabled people, I am interested to see if I will begin to understand this disability pride.
I am so grateful to the speakers who have so eloquently presented these ideas of identification and pride, and I am hopeful that my time spent in this new community will be helpful in further understanding the concepts they detailed.