I was born with a form of dwarfism called Cartilage Hair Hypoplasia. It is a complex name for a medical condition that can be summed up in one sentence: I am 21 years old and I stand at 3ft 7 tall, the same height as a four-year-old child.
My disability does not define who I am, but it is a part of my identity. I am an aspiring journalist and media professional. I like to watch Korean dramas and listen to pop and RnB music.
And I also happen to be disabled.
But it is the first thing people notice when they see me because it is impossible to hide a physical disability and it is definitely not something disabled people can change. I can’t grow another foot or two.
So here’s a teaser of some of the things we will have encountered, experienced and have been asked about as a physically disabled person.
1. Being stared at for being “different”
At the supermarket. At a restaurant. On the train. All eyes will be on us. We can be minding our own business and catch at least one person red-handed.
2. Unwanted attention can become tedious after awhile
Yes, it’s fun at first when people approach you and want to talk to you. Then after a while, you really wish they would stop talking and leave you alone.
3. People will judge you for being disabled…
“You won’t be able to do this.” “That’s too heavy for you.” “Someone help her.”
4. …but you will prove them wrong.
Going to university. Having a job. Traveling. Becoming a bodybuilder. Sailing the seven seas.
Don’t underestimate the things we can do.
5. “God made you the way you are.” “God loves you.”
My parents had sex and conceived me. God had no part to play in that.
Well, I hope he didn’t anyway.
6. “You’re so cute!” “I want to pat you on the head.”
Don’t patronize me. I am an adult. I am not a dog or a child. Please refrain from patting my head or picking me up.
7. When people take pictures of you (when you look good versus when you don’t):
We would prefer it if you didn’t take pictures of us to show your friends, but if you do, catch me on my good side.
8. You’ve used your disability as an excuse more than once…
“I’ve got little legs so I can’t take the recycling bin out.”
9. … and it has worked, except on those who know your true colors.
“You’re just lazy, X.”
10. “So your parents aren’t disabled?”
Yes, they aren’t disabled. And your point is?
11. “How do you manage?” “I wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Disabled people are the most resilient and resourceful because we are able to adapt to the environment.
Unable to reach the biscuit tin? Use a cooking spatula to hook the tin and pull it down towards you.
12. Self-acceptance and confidence are fundamental…
Being loud and proud about your disability is key because it makes you the person who you are.
13. …which confuses A LOT of people when they meet you.
“I didn’t expect you’d be so confident!” “You don’t care, do you?” Of course, I don’t. But it is the result of years of hard work to learn how to accept and adopt an I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude.
14. People are also surprised that you drink and go out clubbing…
Put your eyes back inside of your head. It is no secret that disabled people can have a social life.
15. …and then they call you an “inspiration” for doing so.
We could probably drink you under the table. If that’s what you mean by being an “inspiration”.
16. “Can you have sex?” “Do you have relationships?”
We may be disabled, but we have needs, too. And a perfectly working vagina.
17. “I’ve never met someone like you before.”
Congratulations for now knowing at least one disabled person. You must feel proud for having a diverse group of acquaintances.
18. People you’ve never met will know who you are…
They spot the only disabled person at the party and know exactly who you are. “Oh you must be X, I’ve heard a lot about you!”
19. …but then you’re offended when they don’t remember you.
Like really? How can you forget who I am when I am the ONLY dwarf you know.
20. “You don’t look disabled.” “But you’re not disabled disabled.”
You don’t have to be in a wheelchair or bed bound or even have a carer to be disabled. Disability comes in a range of forms, sizes, and conditions.
Also, we don’t care if we don’t look disabled to you. Period.