“Disabled looks like me” campaign with Leonard Cheshire and Mimi Butlin is very close to my heart for a number of reasons. The first one is that the aim of the campaign is to breakdown disability stereotypes.
One thing I used to get really upset and angry about is being judged because I didn’t look how many assume a disabled person should look. There has however been a huge change since I have had to start using a splint on my leg and walk with a stick. I now look how many assume someone who is disabled may look. They are seeing a visible disability but actually my leg issues don’t hinder me nearly as much as what is going on inside my body.
I always found myself having to justify to people that I really needed to park in that disabled parking space, or yes that really is my disabled parking pass and no I am not borrowing someone else. It was not unusual for me to be followed into a shop and be told I should not have parked where I did or told I cant use the disabled toilets because I am not disabled. This used to crush me. I would wish that I didnt have asthma but had something people could see (if I had to have something at all) because I had used all my energy to just get up, dressed and out the door yet I was still having to justify myself to others particularly as I don’t use disabled facilities or parking spaces if I am having a good day and feel I could perhaps mobilise a bit better.
Outwardly I didn’t look any different. You cant see tight inflamed airways that are reactive to anything and everything making breathing out almost impossible. You might on a really bad day see a bit of a blue tinge around my lips or hear a low whistle as I breathe out but otherwise you cannot see how disabling my lungs are.
I don’t want people to have to see what my lungs are like for them to not judge me I just want people to stop judging others. As a population we are very judgemental and make assumptions on what people outwardly display and this needs to stop. It should not matter to anyone else if someone is or is not disabled. I know that if I was to use a disabled parking space for example and did not have the lungs that I do have I would feel really guilty using it as know I am taking it away from someone who may need it. There are parking attendants etc who can deal with issues like this but if someone has all the documentation etc then don’t judge them just because they don’t look how you think they should.
No one should have to justify who they are or are not to anyone.
This is why I am supporting this campaign. I also like to support Leonard Cheshire because it was a charity close to my Grandpa’s heart. During WWII he was part of the SOE that parachuted behind enemy lines using what he called an oversized handkerchief so for his 80th birthday (I think) he did a sky dive raising money for the charity. He said it was a lot easier to do at 80 than it was during the war because of the parachute he had!