It's now about 3 years since I looked at myself in the mirror. But because I have now a visual impairment, I don't know exactly how I look on the outside. I know that I have left my hair to grow long and unless I have mutated my eyes remain brown. But apart from that, I'm sure there are changes that I'm unaware of.
But what about the inside? There I notice so many changes that I sometimes really am surprised when I read things I've written some time ago on my computer. For instance, I know longer feel that being different or a wheelchair user with low vision is something that I shouldn't be proud of.
After all, it's now part of who I am. And if things should change or my eyesight improves I'm still the same person inside. But would I rather be 'normal'? Would I wish my impairments on someone else?
These questions have troubled me since I was younger and became more pressing as I got my extra impairment. The intention people put these questions is usually to demonstrate that in reality there is an ideal human being who has all body parts in good working order and that both communication and intelligence are intact. Some years ago, I would have agreed that people who couldn't walk were in some ways less fortunate than others. And to think that I myself had walking difficulties does make me wonder.
In truth, the reality of my impairments has served to open up a new world and was a learning experience. It still is. The sad thing is that people who do not have impairments assume that I should be really unhappy with myself for being so, well, 'faulty'. And to confess, I do get very annoyed when these people are the first to talk on TV programmes that only aim to cause emotional reactions.
People may find it crazy if I tell them I'm proud to be disabled. Why? Because I have learned to do new things and got to explore myself in more ways than I ever thought possible. Except for the physical pain, being impaired can mean finding yourself again. For in fact, what people see on the outside is nothing more than an image.
A Deaf friend of mine recently told me how he agreed with me when I stated that other people see people with impairments as either 'poor' or 'unfortunate' creatures. None of such people considers that signing instead of talking, or wheeling around instead of walking or even hearing text instead of reading it are all different ways of expressing one's humanity.
Would I wish my impairment on others then? I would put another question: would you have chosen to be black or white, tall or short, black or blue eyed? The answers are that this is all hypothetical stuff. I believe we should find value in who we are regardless what labels society might wish to ascribe to us. Besides, many disabled people may find themselves unhappy mainly because they are excluded from society and not because they have impairments. To me, that was a revelation to say the least.
There may come a time when my vision improves through surgery, but I feel that there is something that is inside that will continue changing and developing further. Until people realise that the life of disabled people like myself (even if it appears foreign or alien) is part of society and reality, our structures will still brand us as outcasts. True, I can no longer see my image in the mirror on the wall. But my vision of life and society is increasing and maturing.
Gordon's D-Zone Blog