Despite WHO’s estimates that there are one billion disabled people worldwide, we rarely get to see ourselves on television. The Creative Diversity Network’s study of 6 popular British TV channels over a month claims that only 0.9% of people represented had a disability. Despite being shut out of traditional media, disabled people have been able to forge communities online, using the internet to discuss our lives, disabilities, activism, and more.
I’ve written previously about how I started using a wheelchair, but haven’t elaborated on how the disabled people I follow online helped me to not only start using my mobility aid, but realize that my life could be so much more than pain. After growing up with little help from doctors, I didn’t know that I could make lifestyle changes, and take medication stronger than paracetamol to cope with my chronic pain. Thanks to these women, I learnt to adapt, advocate for myself, and accept my limitations while not giving up on having a life. Without this digital growing community of disabled people, I likely would still be trapped in the same vicious pain cycle that I had grown up with.
Annika was the first disabled person I subscribed to on Youtube. I watched at first for her amazing sewing tutorials, but later for her videos discussing her chronic illnesses and disabilities. Hearing her discuss the complex ways her illnesses have affected her life, as well as what she does to counteract and overcome them, helped me realize that I needed to make a change in my own life. Annika helped me to advocate for accommodations at school, and to start seeing a new GP to discuss what my next steps would be.
Jessica vlogs about vintage style, her wife and dogs, as well as her disabilities and health. I love her frank, optimistic style and how openly she talks about her life as a disabled person. I’ve had a lot of difficulty handling my fear of being a burden, and what my future would be like if my disability prevented me from working or continuing school. Jessica showed me that needing more help than others was nothing to be ashamed of. Even if my fears are realized, and I’m forced to interrupt or drop out of school, my life won’t have any less value, and my happiness doesn’t have to be limited. Jessica showed me that it is possible to be disabled, and still have a life. That you can be disabled and still have people who love you and care for you – whether you are able to work or not. Disability doesn’t have to stop us from having measures of independence, with passions and accomplishments to be proud of.
If you’re disabled, and feeling isolated, I recommend finding other disabled people online (we are out there!). Knowing that there are others out there that understand the position you’re in is invaluable in finding support and the strength to move forward.
Featured image from Elite Daily