LEONOR (3rd year)
“I fell down the stairs and broke my back when I was 19, after which I learned that I am chronically ill. This was the first time that I became aware of my disability. Generally, people do not perceive me as disabled, because I pass as able-bodied. But many people do not see the amount of pain that I am in every single day. Chronic pain is largely misunderstood, even within the medical field. I have had several bad experiences with doctors that did not take my pain seriously. And my experience is by no means a singular one, but one that is shared by plenty of disabled people. That is an issue, which is not talked about enough, which is very harmful since it concerns a lot of people in society. So, based on my own experiences, I am determined to create more awareness about disability.
I understand disability as the barriers that society imposes on people that have impairments, meaning that the world around us is disabling, and not, as commonly assumed, our bodies themselves. Thus, my medical diagnosis does not disable me as such, but the lack of suitable access in my environment to meet my needs does.
As I learned more about disability, I came to understand how understudied it actually is. We often lack room and knowledge to talk about disability, which is the fault of a system that marginalizes disabled people, which includes academia and media. Because of that, we are collectively underprepared and hesitant to talk about disability. We need to make people aware of how to appropriately talk about disability, what disability can look like and what measures we can take to accommodate people’s needs. I came to the conclusion that what matters the most is care work, to provide support for disabled people. I am highly dependent on my community to carry out tasks, which I cannot do myself. Therefore, it is important to have people around me who are compassionate and that don’t make me feel like I am a burden, because one can easily feel this way. Also, surrounding yourself with disabled creators, listening to disabled voices and reflecting on ones own personal perceptions about disability are crucial for a more inclusive and accommodating society.” (Leonor, 3rd year, Portugal)