Disability: A Weakness or Strength?

In Columns, Life With Laura by Laura Stinson

Something to ponder: Is a disability a weakness or strength?

Interesting question, isn’t it? One that, if you’re like me, you’ve never really considered. But, somewhere in that warm abyss between wakefulness and sleep, that question came to me. There was no provocation for it; it was simply there.

The more I considered it, I realized that I had adopted the thinking of most of society that deems disability as a weakness. It makes sense. After all, the word disability carries a connotation of “inability”, whether or not such an assumption is true.

It means that an individual is not as capable as a person without a disability and, by being less capable, that person is inherently weaker.

Like I said, I absorbed that mindset without intending to do so. Almost unconsciously, I thought of myself as weaker for having OI (Osteogenesis Imperfecta). Maybe such thinking is related to the weaknesses caused by the disease.

My body is fragile and prone to fracture and breakage. I must be ever-vigilant in my daily activities to avoid injury. OI, by its very nature, makes people with the disease naturally weaker.

I likely also absorbed the ideas that society presented to me that I couldn’t do things other individuals could. Logically, I shouldn’t be as intelligent as those around me. I should be utterly dependent upon my family and the few friends I garnered.

Still, as I struggled against this current, I somehow continued to assume that I was, in fact, weaker than the average person. I worked to prove my intelligence surpassed my peers, but by working so hard, I was only covering up what I viewed as weakness.

I went out of my way to prove my independence, to prove my abilities(sometimes resulting in injuries) as a way to counteract what I saw as a weakness.

Now it occurs to me that none of that was weakness.

Rather, it was strength in its truest form: determination. I was determined to overcome obstacles and achieve goals that others thought impossible for someone like me.

I was determined to prove everyone wrong. I am determined to continue doing so.

It is said, “Pain is weakness leaving the body”. Certainly, you could analyze that phrase in purely physical terms, but we all know that pain transcends physicality.

Pain can be emotional, spiritual, mental. Pain takes on many incarnations, and anyone with a disability has likely experienced them all several times, often simultaneously. I know without a doubt that I fall in that category.

Yet, despite those many pains, I have not hidden myself away from the world. I have experienced discrimination, prejudice, and assumptions that are blatantly wrong. I have continued to face these evils and have used them as a jumping-off point for my own life.

Ignorance, arrogance, and discrimination spur me on. They make me want to continue on the same path, to bust down barriers that have not yet been destroyed, to open the minds that remain closed.

If that is not strength, than I do not know what is. To me, continuing on in the face of adversity is the definition of true strength of character. And strength of character is infinitely more important that physical brawn. Such strength isn’t limited to me, or the disabled community.

It is not limited to the African Americans who marched during the Civil Rights Movement or the proponents of Women’s Liberation. It is not limited to any individual or group of individuals. It exceeds disability, race, and gender.

It is obvious to me that anyone who judges any of us as being weak is nothing but weak-minded. To survive and excel in this world as a non-disabled person requires tremendous strength. To survive and excel as a person with a disability requires a gargantuan dose of strength. Our disabilities may well make our bodies prone to weaknesses. But, as they say, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Do you agree with Laura’s opinion? Let us know by sounding off at the Online Forum or at nathasha@audacitymagazine.com .