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Aeon
22 mins | May 13, 2020

Am I disabled?

A personal piece on why understanding disability is not as clear-cut as society makes us think. When forms ask novelist Joanne Limburg if she considers herself a disabled person, she gets three options for claiming her identity, but none of them quite right. In fact, when it comes to this question, there are no easy answers. In Aeon magazine, she contemplates the dilemma of "provoking stigma with support, or resist classification?" "When I read the book Disability Theory (2008) by Tobin Siebers, I recognised that the representations to which my mind defaults are not direct representations of disabled people or their bodies, but metonymic representations – where the paraphernalia associated with disabled comes to stand for the people who use them. The disabled people whose paraphernalia is not so readily visible (the shunt, the stent, the colostomy bag, the anti-seizure or anti-inflammatory drugs, the blood-sugar monitors etc) cannot even offer any symbols to stand as proxies. I’m thinking about one of those default images now: the painted wheelchair symbol that marks out a disabled parking space at a supermarket car park, and the figure on that wheelchair. The stick person appears fused to the wheelchair, suggesting not just that a disabled person can be only a person who uses a wheelchair, but is someone who cannot be separated from it."

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