Disability: It doesn’t define me but…..

13 September 2022

I recently updated my LinkedIn profile and was struck by how testing and reflective, and challenging and validating I found putting these few paragraphs together. So, I decided to write a series of posts to expand on what I chose to include.

I am starting with the paragraph that means the most to me, and I think should mean the most to existing and potential clients.


“Disability does not define me. It does, however, make me an ‘expert by experience’. It does mean I add value. It does mean I think differently. It does mean I am able to have conversations others avoid”.


“Disability does not define me.”

I am a disabled person, but this is not the defining thing about me. It’s a big thing, but there are other things about me that make me who I am. I am fun and flawed, and deep and daft, and sometimes my impairment is part of this and sometimes it isn’t. It is a big part of who I am, it informs what I do, and it can inspire change and influence action, but it doesn’t define me.


“It does make me an ‘expert by experience’”

I use my lived experience to inform my clients’ service design; to provide user insights; to advocate on behalf of disabled people; influence policy and practices; and to ‘call it out’ when disability is missing from the agenda. My lived experience underpins my work and my work positions me as an ‘expert by experience’.


“It does mean I add value”

I provide tangible, practical, feasible ideas and solutions that often stem from my lived experience, but regularly have wider impact. Adding value is what you can and should expect from me.


“It does mean I think differently”

Living and working in a world that is not set up for me means:

  • I would design things differently
  • I take a different approach to contribute.

Those who look at the world differently and navigate it differently often innovate by default. Subscribing to an asset-based approach to disability can take us beyond inclusion, into innovation.


“It does mean I am able to have conversations others avoid.”

Too often people avoid conversations about disability or interactions with disabled people: people still find disability awkward.

I know the importance so I will ‘lean in’, rather than avoid. My lived experience enables me to position perspectives in ways that can diffuse awkwardness and provide alternatives.


In summary….

I self-identify as disabled. I accept it and sometimes celebrate it. It adds much to my life, and particularly my work. Yet it isn’t the first thing you need to know about me. It plays a big role in my life but gladly my life is bigger and richer and has more context than just my impairment.


What does it give you? Does it define you? I know many #disabled people hold different views on this. All comments welcome….