Hello humans of the internet! Let’s all just take a moment to laugh at several months ago me who thought that she didn’t have to be defined by dyslexia. Today I am asking a question that I have been asked and that I have asked myself. Rather, it is a question that I have been forced to ask myself after rather uncomfortable encounters. As you see from the title the questions is: Am I disabled?
So, am I disabled?
Well that’s a complicated question, isn’t it?
What brought this question into my mind?
That’s a lot easier. Several years ago now, I was in an airport. I don’t think I’ve told this story before but it was quite a while ago, so maybe. I don’t think I’ll include which airport because outside of this one man, it was a fairly comfortable airport experience. But, this one man was very stressful. As you might have noticed, I’m dyslexic. I’m about to go on a brief tangent about what my personal dyslexia is. If you don’t care about that, skip the next paragraph.
My technical diagnosis is an orthographic processing problem/dyslexic. I had to sit through more than 6 hours of testing. Yes you read that correctly, 6 hours. I was diagnosed at 15. The doctor told me that she had consulted with 9 of her peers while reviewing my tests in order to come up with my diagnosis. It was explained to me as dyslexia, but I had developed a lot of coping skills so, I didn’t show up as quite dyslexic on the test. So, potentially, if I’d been diagnosed younger, it would have been a lot easier to diagnose. Basically what it means is that I have all the symptom of dyslexia, but somehow I managed to learn some kind of weird way to read. Now, this is important I feel for the first question: am I disabled and the story about the airport.
So back to the airport, when I got the ticket we called the airport and they gave me number that I was supposed to present at the special assistance desk and then they would take me to my gate. This was something that I really needed because having reading difficulties makes it really hard to find large colored signs with numbers on them. When I’d gotten through security, I started looking for the special assistance desk. I couldn’t find it. I eventually went to a security gaurd and asked them where to find the special assistance desk. He pointed and told me to look for a sign. I ended up asking another security guard and he looked a little confused and pointed at a giant sign with an arrow that was about 4 feet away from me. I followed the arrow. And here’s the thing: it was nearly impossible to find the special assistance desk and it was quite a long walk from the front. Finally, I found the desk, I wasn’t sure that this was the desk because it was so isolated and hard to find. I reached in my purse and pulled out the number I was meant to present to the special assistance desk. I held out the paper with the number and said, I was told to find the special assistance desk and give you this because I need help getting to my gate. The man sneered “you don’t look disabled.”
I froze. The man just went back to what he was doing and completely ignored me. I didn’t know what to do. Honestly, I just sat there for a second. Then I turned around and walked away. I didn’t know what to do. The signs were all yellow with blue and blue with yellow and that’s one of the hardest color combinations for me to read. I ended up following my own advice and finding someone who looked grandmotherly and asked them. I walked up to someone and said, I have dyslexia and I can’t read. Then showed them my ticket and they pointed me in the right direction.
Which brings me back to the one statement that has been bugging me for years. “You don’t look disabled.” This statement has slowly evolved into “Am I disabled?”
For a long time I didn’t know the answer. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, dyslexia is a learning disability. And unless I severally misunderstood, which is possible because *dyslexia*, under the Americans with Disabilities Act dyslexia is typically considered a disability. So, I guess I could be considered disabled by the U.S. government, but I would have to go through a bit of a process. I don’t know that dyslexia is considered a disability in every country, honestly deciphering the “easy to read” version of one set of rules was hard enough for me.
Am I disabled?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is I am affected pretty much every day by being dyslexic. Dyslexia is a relatively noninvasive disability. I am able to just sort of pretend that I’m not dyslexic when I first meet people and am still getting a feel for how they would react. I don’t do that anymore, I am way more straight up because honestly if you’re going to act like I’m suddenly stupid the moment you find out I’m dyslexic, I don’t want to waste time being friends because that’s not a friend. So, I’m disabled, but I don’t care? Potentially because I’ve always been dyslexic, it doesn’t actually bother me if I’m disabled or not.
Obviously, people’s reactions to dyslexia bothers me. And the things that I can’t do that a “normal” person would be able to easily do still stress me out.
If I could be dyslexic and only encounter people who weren’t bothered if I asked for reading help and not being asked to do any of the things that I just can’t do, then I would be 100% fine with it. It’s hard to explain. Dyslexia is part of the person God made me. This might be a little rambly. To sum up, I’m dyslexic, that means I’m disabled, that’s not a bad thing.
Are you disabled? If you are and feel comfortable sharing, what is your disability and what is the rudest thing a stranger has said to you?
especially much love to anyone who isn’t feeling particularly loved right now.