Who's Disabled?

Who's Disabled in bold white letters on a dark aqua blue background

People sometimes ask, "Is it okay for me to say I'm disabled?" What do they mean? A variety of things, I think:

• They have some condition that's in the ballpark of disability, but they have struggled personally over whether they themselves want to identify as disabled.

• They view themselves as disabled in some way, but worry that other disabled people won't accept that, or that they will be accused of "appropriating" disability identity and culture.

• They think that if they refer to themselves as "disabled", their friends and families will be sad or disapprove, or worse ... believe they are faking in order to gain some kind of advantage or benefit.

• They are focused on one of the more narrow, specific definitions of "disabled," such as qualifying for Social Security Disability, being entitled to a "handicapped parking" permit, or being covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

• They take the word "disabled" very literally, to mean unable to do anything. From this point of view it can seem both inaccurate, (everybody can do SOMETHING), and discouraging ... as if calling yourself disabled is not only descriptive, but predictive.

I've thought about it a lot, and here is the definition of disability that makes the most sense to me. It's a personal definition, not a legal or bureaucratic one:

If you have a physical or mental condition that you have to think about and plan around every day, then you are disabled.

This definition encompasses any physical, mental, cognitive, and sensory impairments. I personally don't include temporary impairments, impairments that are seamlessly adapted, (like glasses for nearsightedness), or ordinary variations in personality, talent, and physical makeup.

Any thoughts?