Disability, Identity and Me
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Disability, Identity and Me

Last week I asked a question which I guess in ways lead to me questioning myself about aspects of my identity.

My question was: does anyone know of any good screen reading software?

The question asked of me was: are you visually impaired?

This was something I had never thought of before, of course, there are times I ask myself this about my physical disabilities.

There are days I cannot make it from my bed to the sofa without feeling I have run a marathon, yet they sit in the rooms next to each other. There are days when I struggle to the bathroom and days where my limbs feel like they are made of lead.

I rely on a blue badge to get to the shops, as it means I can carefully plan where I am going and park nearby therefore I can walk to it painfully rather than rely on others to push me in my wheelchair.

So does that make me disabled?

I guess although loathed to admit it I am disabled, with a hidden disability rather than those we picture when we think of a disabled person.

However, back to that question asked of me, I’ve accepted I have mental health issues, accepted I am disabled, do I need to also add visually impaired to that list as well?

Disability, Identity and Me

So let me ask you:
I can see very little difference, between wearing my glasses and not. In fact, I often forget if I have them on or not, as my vision is so similar with or without them.
I can get passable vision via wearing contacts, but they are painful and I only manage to wear them for so long. They have also left my cornea scarred as they are hard and at times no longer fit very well.
I even need to go without them for a week, in the coming month, which will limit everything I can do.

So even though it is correctable in a way, does the fact I can’t see even with glasses mean I am visually impaired?

It’s hard sometimes to accept how disabilities can become part of your identity, part of what defines you. However, I am slowly learning it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. While disabilities impair you in certain ways you become stronger in others, you learn to look after yourself in different ways, you learn who cares and who matters the most. Meaning your world changes in both good and bad ways and that is OK.

To hear more about how disabilities can define part of peoples identities, the series Identities from Bathing Solutions speaks to 3 different, disabled people about how it affects them. Personally, I found that I identified with Umber's video the most. She also has a hidden disability and got me thinking about how I felt about disability myself, how it was to learn to accept the things you cannot change, while still letting yourself live as much of a life as possible. As well as pointing me in the direction of learning that sometimes it is OK to be selfish and look after yourself as number one when pain and fatigue levels are high,

What do you think of when someone mentions a disability, if you are disabled, how does your disability come into play with your identity?  

*This is a collaborative post.

This article has 53 comments

  1. Jenni

    Us humans are wonderful things, we can adapt regardless at what disabilities. I admire people who just get on with it

  2. Emma Raphael

    You sound like you have so much to cope with. I think, especially being English, we are all too eager to think “oh there’s always someone worse off than me, I am not that disabled” but if accepting that you actually might be means that life is generally happier as you are no longer stressed about it, then maybe that’s a good thing…

  3. Kirsty

    I’m not sure whether you got an answer about the screenreaders. I use Jaws on my laptop and Voiceover on my Apple devices. There is also a free one called NVDA, which is apparently good, but I’ve never used it.
    In terms of my disability, it’s there, and I don’t try to hide it, but neither do I feel the need to see it as an important part of my identity, because there’s much more to me than a lable that highlights just one thing about me.
    I don’t mention it on my business website because I don’t think it’s relevant. The only reason it’s in the tagline of my personal blog is so that people don’t bleat on about the fact that there aren’t loads of photos on every post!
    If you think that having a screenreader would help you to get access to text more comfortably than looking at the screen for long periods of time, go for it!

    • Sarah-Louise Bailey

      Oh thank you, I’ll have a look into that.
      I definitely think it will especially when I can’t wear my contacts for long periods (they are saying at some point it will have to be 4 weeks) and I won’t live without the internet!

  4. Lesley Bain

    I’m still struggling with the label disabled as it is relatively new to me. I rely on my blue badge now, although a lot of days I can’t drive at all.

    I am trying to see past the label. I feel like I have forgotten who I am. It sounds like you have managed to come to terms with most of your health conditions. It gives me hope that I will too.

    Your eyesight shouldn’t be the same with or without your glasses, have you considered going back to the optician for an up to date test? It might not be necessary to

  5. Lesley Bain

    Posted too soon.

    I was going to say it might not be necessary to accept your worsening eyesight if there is a better prescription the optician can give you.

    • Sarah-Louise Bailey

      My issue is I have Keratoconus which is a when the cornea is a cone-shaped rather than smooth and flat. My right eye is now at a point where it can’t be corrected by glasses – I would need a telescope strapped to one eye, so I rely on contacts. My left lens could be made to a better prescription so I could see a little better through that lens but they would need to update both lenses so it would be near £400 for lens + frames just to see slightly better in them and all they would be good for is watching TV, which would still be slightly blurry.

  6. Joanna

    Why should we put labels on people? I never understood this. Disabled or not, visual impaired or not, you are still a human being, exactly the same as everybody else. Probably a very high percentage of people have mental health issues as well, even if they admit it or not. Does this makes them different? Shall others look or treat them differently? No. We are all the same, no labels!

  7. Kayleigh McManus

    Although being categorised as ‘disabled’ helps some people get access to necessary services, I don’t think anyone should be labelled. Even people without diagnosis’ are ‘disabled’. We all have strengths and weaknesses, things we are good at and things we aren’t. You seem very positive. Lovely reading x

  8. Rhian Westbury

    I know quite a few people whose disabilities are not always obvious and I think there’s so many facets to it x

  9. Ali - We Made This Life

    I think people from the outside can never understand just how hard the simple tasks of life are for people who are disabled.

  10. Margaret Gallagher

    I am ABLE in my eyes!!
    A lot like you -some days im champion -some days my bed is best
    I’ve found MINDFULNESS truely wonderful
    Only time I see my self as DIS -ABLED is for the cruel assessments the authorities like to put us through

  11. Ana De- Jesus

    You have been through a lot in your lifetime and while being classed as disabled has been something that you may have found to be hard to accept as part of your identity I am glad you are realizing that it is not a bad thing. My foster sister is disabled and has something called Williams Syndrome which is a chromosomal disorder that affects physical and mental development. She uses a wheelchair- but she can walk (as she has no concept of danger and would run in the road and finds certain environments she needs to use the wheelchair) and also has issues with her heart and is at the developmental age of a 3 year old- although she is 9. However she looks like a normal beautiful young girl and the amount of people that have given us grief for having a disabled badge or parking in a disabled bay is crazy! Just because someone looks ‘ok’ does not mean that they are not disabled. But having a disability is nothing to be ashamed of x

    • Sarah-Louise Bailey

      It really isn’t, I think a lot of people are saying they don’t like labels, but it isn’t about the label it is about accepting your limited and that it is OK to ask for help and admitting when you find things hard.

  12. kirsty

    I myself live with an invisible illness (type 1 diabetes and I’ve had depression and anxiety) so I know exactly how you feel about calling yourself disabled. I’ve only very recently got into the mindset that living with an illness doesn’t mean your life is over and that it controls you, it’s a part of me yes but it doesn’t define me as person

  13. hannah

    When someone tells me they have a disability, i don’t see the disablilty but the person themselves. I don’t do labels, I never have and I will never label a person

  14. Angela Ricardo Bethea

    I never understand why we need to label people like that. Being humans, we can adapt to our surroundings which I think is a good thing.

  15. Jade Bremner

    When I was a support worker when applying for PIP etc we were always told to put down visually impaired if they wore glasses even if it was only to read but I wear glasses to read and wouldn’t class myself as visually impaired. I think now a days nobody knows what to say or put as it’s always wrong to someone x

  16. Tanya Brannan

    Disabilities are such tricky things. There are so many people out there (including some of my family members) who have invisible disabilities and the abuse they have faced from total strangers is unbelievable.
    In an ideal world everyone would be accepted at face value xxx

  17. Baby Isabella

    The series Identities sounds interesting and we’d like to hear other peoples perspectives on disability. We just wish people were kinder and others less hard on themselves x

  18. Lauretta At Home and Horizon

    That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. A quote I’ve always believed in. Well, there are even some ABLE people who function like they are with a disability. So be strong and keep the faith.

  19. Jess

    “While disabilities impair you in certain ways you become stronger in others, you learn to look after yourself in different ways, you learn who cares and who matters the most. Meaning your world changes in both good and bad ways and that is OK.”

    I really love this message Sarah. I can’t being to imagine the difficulties you’re experiencing but I love that you’re spreading the idea that people can adapt to this and you’re sharing a journey that you’re still on.

    It’s possible that many people reading your article now may suffer from a similar situation in the future and they’ll no doubt remember this post. I understand that there are people who say ‘we shouldn’t label’, but there are others who proudly say ‘yes I’m technically disabled and look what I’ve achieved’. It’s such a personal thing as like you said, it’s part of who you are.

    I guess, like you mentioned, it’s just important to look after number 1 and remember to take time out for self-care. I hope writing this helped you to process some of the feelings you have around the matter.

    • Sarah-Louise Bailey

      I totally agree, I get some people don’t like labels, but I think because with my mental health I battled for so long to have a name for what was wrong with me, in some ways I feel like they can help. Knowing what is wrong with you means you can learn ways to fight it, without that knowledge you feel you are battling an unknown monster who you will never defeat!

  20. Lilinha

    I must confess I had no idea you had a visual impairment until I read this post. Although I can’t help with the screen reading software, I wanted to say that you are doing extremely well, considering the difficulties you go through xx


    A disability should not define a person. There are some severely disabled people that accomplish some great things. I think you are doing a great job, I hope you can find some software that can help.

  22. Nayna Kanabar

    You have disabilities but you are dealing with them really well and not allowing them to take over your life. As far as the viewer you are asking about you can borrow and try some devices from the association of partially sight, they have many centres check ones near your area.

  23. Tanya

    I have accepted I have mental health issues but I guess I have never thought of classing that as a disability. I like that people are starting to understand a lot more about “hidden” disabilities but there is still a long way to go before people truly accept that just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there

  24. Louise

    I have scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine, and some people class me as disabled, but others don’t. As time goes on I’m finding it harder and harder to do things, though.

    For example, I can’t wash my hair in the bath because I can’t lift the jug high enough to rinse the shampoo out, I can’t walk very far without having to stop for a breather because I now drag my right leg and it’s difficult moving it, and I can’t put enough pressure on my knife to cut up my own dinner. These only seem like little things, but they have a big impact on my day-to-day life. So I would say I do consider myself to have a disability in a way. I would hate to be defined by it though. I still like to give things a try whether I can do them or not!

    Louise x

  25. Dannii

    It’s amazing how many people get grief for not “looking disabled”. There are so many invisible disabilities and we should never judge on looks.

  26. Jessi

    I feel the same as Emma Raphael; I think we Brits are self-depreciating and always feel we shouldn’t bother someone/someone else deserves help more than me. We need to work on our self care. I admire you for just getting on with things but if you need help then don’t be afraid to ask.

  27. Super Busy Mum

    I love how whatever is thrown in the path of us human beings, we always find a way to cope and deal with it. Just amazing.

  28. Nina

    A few years ago no my brother died and he had lived with two disabilities. Now I wish I could speak on behalf of him about disability and perceptions of it so this kind of post hints at the kind of message I want to express. Thank you so much for sharing!

  29. John

    Like you I struggle to come to terms with being disabled and everything that goes with the “title”!!
    Due to an accident nearly three years ago I suddenly found myself relying on others, which is difficult as I was a very independent fit person, I rely on my powered wheelchair, the Blue Badge but most of all my wife.
    Getting from one place to another both physically and mentally is very challenging but after nearly three years I am just starting to accept that I have changed in so many ways.
    On the bright side, I am sitting down most of the time and I’m not getting pushed around as much. Just got to roll with it!
    Thank you for original post.

    • Sarah-Louise Bailey

      Hi John,

      It is hard isn’t it – life can really throw curve balls at times, I am glad you are learning to accept it as well, and learning to live again almost with the new life you have.

  30. Carla Carthy

    i know how you feel some days are harder then others and the hardest part is accepting it

  31. Tess D

    this has really made me think – thanks for this am going to look at those video’s now, We are all so caught up in the there’s always someone got it worse than me cycle and not wanting to put a ‘label’ on ourselves.

  32. Nigel Soper

    Disability is just a label, it’s what people perceive the label means that matters. When I started suffering from Arthritis and Fibromylagia my NHS bosses declined my further employment on the grounds I was incompetent to fulfill my contract. They didn’t understand what disability is. and truthfully it means something different for each disabled person. It hurt to be called incompetent, but it hurt more when I applied for retirement on the grounds of ill health and they asked me to prove I couldn’t do any job in the NHS. So much for the caring NHS but if they don’t understand then who will. (PS When we visited the USA last summer for the first time since I became wheelchair bound I discovered I was no longer disabled but handicapped instead)

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  34. Lynne Manton

    I too have a hidden disability but I don’t believe this make me less of a person. I may have restrictions in what I can do but the same applies to everyone to some extent. Consider, for example, the limitations of a person who cannot empathise with other people. They may be fit and strong but there will be will be certain roles they cannot effectively take on, in the same way that there will be some roles that my physical limitations will prevent me undertaking effectively. Obviously, some people are more severely disabled than others but perhaps it is only a question of degree.

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