Visually impaired. Partially sighted. Severely sight impaired. Blind. Disabled. These are all labels which have seemed to identify me on a regular basis during my lifetime, not only by other people but by myself as well.
We all have things about ourselves that help to build up our identities, those little quirks that are unique to us, distinctive aspects of our personality or appearance that will stick if you’ve made an impression on someone.
But, unfortunately for me and many other disabled people, our disability is the first thing, and sometimes the only thing people see.
What people don’t often realise is that there is a person behind that disability, a personality, a person with hopes, dreams and ambitions, someone with hobbies and passions and it’s a shame that all these things are often overlooked just because of one label.
I make my disability a big part of my life, especially online. My blog is very disability orientated and when someone visits it for the first time, the fact that I’m vision impaired is a little hard to ignore. It’s evidently going to be the first thing someone learns about me when they land on my blog for the first time or if they find me on social media. It is included in nearly every blog title and it’s mentioned in the first sentence of my about page so I’m not being discrete about it in any way.
And of course, that’s the way I want it to be, I want to share my story, I want to shout from the rooftops that my disability contributes to my life in a positive way (sometimes) and I want to educate people about it and tackle the stigmas and misconceptions. But, I also want people to realise that although I can ramble on about it in 2000+ word blog posts, my disability isn’t the only thing that defines me And although it’s the main topic of conversation quite often, it’s a long way down the list of the things that help to build up my identity.
A few months ago fellow blogger, Gem Turner, wrote a blog post about what helps to build up her identity, a post many other disabled people have got involved with to try to challenge the preconceived idea that our disability is our only identifying trait. One of my favourite bloggers, Chloe, then challenged me to write about #WhatMakesMe and although I’m a little late jumping on to this bandwagon, it’s a topic that I think is important to highlight.
My family and friends don’t think of me as disabled. Of course they’re conscious of it and will help in any way they can whenever I need it but to them, I am your average 20-year-old, well maybe not so average but, to them, I’m definitely not just my disability.
So, here are just a few things that make me who I am.
Perhaps the most common thing people would see me as nowadays is a blogger and I’m not complaining, it’s something I’m very proud to be.
My blog has been a really big part of my life since it launched back in 2015 and my passion for writing has seemed to evolve with it.
I spend most of my time tapping away at my keyboard, whether I’m writing an assignment, a blog post or an article for a magazine or website, it’s one of the things I love to do the most and I’m glad that it’s one of the main things I can call myself when introducing myself to new people.
MY LOVE OF MUSIC
I’ve loved music since I was a little one, I used to play the piano and harp which I loved to do as well as singing my little heart out in local singing competitions.
There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t listen to music and it’s definitely become a big part of my life. Feeling happy? I’ll sing along to my favourite tunes. Feeling sad? Pop on some music. Bored? Well, I guess I’ll listen to an endless amount of songs. It’s an all rounder for every emotion.
I can be a relatively quiet person, even more so a few years ago, I’ve definitely been compared to a mouse on more than one occasion during my lifetime. But when it comes to concerts, that all seems to change.
Granted, I’m not the loudest in the crowd, never will be. But, I don’t think I’ve ever sung or screamed as loud in my life. No part of me will ever get bored of hearing my favourite artists live.
My love of going to concerts is definitely no secret and I’m hoping quite a few more will be on the cards this year.
MY PASSION FOR FASHION
You could never have persuaded my 13-year-old self to go out shopping for the day and even if you did, I’d complain I was bored after going in and out of a couple of shops. But now, it’s a completely different story. I’m now known for my love of fashion, a good ol’ spending spree here and there. It’s not often that you’ll see me now without a pair of heeled ankle boots on and my love for fashion will never go unnoticed by the people in my life.
MY PASSION FOR HELPING OTHERS
My disability might tie into this one but they can still be two very separate things. One of the main reasons I started writing my blog was because I wanted the opportunity to help others who might be in a similar situation to me, or to help others to better understand sight loss and how it can affect someone’s life.
I’m quite an empathetic person and if my family or friends are struggling, I’ll do whatever I can to give them a helping hand.
There are also a lot of other things that help to make me who I am, aspects of my personality or my appearance people will quite often comment on, the most popular is definitely the observation of my long eyelashes. And my nan always says how witty I can be, and although I don’t think that for myself, it’s definitely such a lovely thing to hear.
There was a time when I felt trapped by my vision impairment, a time when all a lot of people saw me for was my disability and as if I was broken. It felt like a constant battle to try to make people realise that I am a person with feelings, hobbies, dreams and goals, not a robot which has just been left outside the factory.
This kind of treatment meant that it took a while for me to realise that I am more than my vision impairment, it was a long road to acceptance and whilst there are still times when I’m left feeling sad, lonely or frustrated by my disability, I think I’m finally at the finishing line and I no longer label myself as just a visually impaired person.
Yes, I am disabled, it’s all some people have seen me as being in the past and there’s no doubt that some probably won’t be able to look past it in the future but the ones who matter can and perhaps most importantly of all, I can.
Labels seem to be a prominent part of today’s society but in the grand scheme of things, they’re all insignificant. We all have different things that build up our identity and whilst our disability or any other ‘labelling factor’ can contribute to that, it isn’t all that we are.
The next time you think of someone as ‘just being disabled’, remember that labels are just words and behind them, there are some truly wonderful people.
What helps to build up your identity? I’d love to hear about your quirks, hobbies and interests!