By Sylvia Colt-Lacayo in Huffpost.
Recently, I was in the grocery store, minding my own business, when I heard, “Daddy, what’s wrong with her legs?” I looked to the right and saw a young boy with a now-embarrassed father, who quickly shushed his son. The dad made eye contact with me, trying to relay his remorse through his furrowed brow. I stepped in, as I have been trained to do, before he could verbally apologize for his son. “It’s no problem, I am in a wheelchair because I was born with a disability.” The father’s shoulders sagged in relief. He introduced his son and I am cued to teach the boy about disability etiquette.
I know how to have these conversations because I have been having them for as long as I can remember. Let’s ask the disabled student about disability! What is it? Why do you have it? I’m so sorry! Wow, your wheelchair sure does look fun! I was born with a neuromuscular disability (similar to Muscular Dystrophy). I have used adaptive equipment my entire life and began using a motorized wheelchair full time in elementary school. I have always faced obstacles surrounding accessibility and inclusion, which, from a young age, has led me to deal with overwhelming anxiety. Now, I am a 19-year-old undergraduate student and I can see that my mental health is intrinsically linked to my disability. There is no way to separate the two.
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