Four social influencers tackling disability taboos
Posted by: the personal injury help and advice team
Today, more and more social influencers are becoming role models for younger people and acknowledging taboo topics in the face of discrimination. Since disabled children are twice as likely to experience persistent bullying, addressing and interrogating the concept of ‘normal’ is essential.
An article on disability and taboos argues that silence and misunderstanding are the problem, asking “how and when are we going to move forward if the average person doesn’t know or comprehend our struggles? It’s up to us as disabled people to teach our peers about the different struggles we face in our everyday lives.”
During anti-bullying week (12-18 November), the Personal Truths team take a look at the inspiring people who bring openness and honesty to social media.
Henry, an artist, author and speaker shares the frequent Twitter abuse he receives to raise awareness of discrimination. Having shattered his spine during a diving accident on holiday, Henry became paralysed from the shoulders down at age 17. He often shares his story on Twitter and Instagram:
“This photo shows the only parts of my body that I can move and feel. My heart has stopped 7 times, I had to learn how to breathe, eat and drink again. But my accident has made my life richer and fuller. I have many things to be grateful for and so many reasons to smile.”
Posting videos of all aspects of his daily life – painting with his mouth, exercising the muscles he still has use of, and using hands-free social media – Henry’s uplifting posts speak about injury in an honest and inspirational way. Henry’s book, The Little Big Things, has received endless support and features a foreword from JK Rowling.
“There is no point dwelling on what might or could have been. The past has happened and cannot be changed; it can only be accepted. Life is much simpler and much happier when you look at what you can do, not what you can’t do.”
Diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Sarah is a disability activist who suffers from chronic pain and uses a wheelchair. As well as sharing fashion and beauty tips on Instagram, she educates her followers on her disability and embraces subjects not often spoken about, from Disability Living Allowance to relationships.
“Growing up not knowing what was wrong with me I spent many a night with my Nan rubbing my legs because they were hurting. For me (and her), it’s really important that I don’t dwell on my health, I’m not going to be miraculously cured and there’s no point beating myself up about it.”
Her blog ‘From Sarah Lex’, features truthful, accessible content summed up with a positive outlook; titles include “7 parts of my chronic illness that not everyone sees” and “Being disabled does not make me a burden to my partner”.
“From an abled outsiders perspective, there might not be much good to be taken from living with a disability, but in my Nan I saw that it wasn’t a ‘death sentence’ so many people claim it to be. I struggle and things are sh*t but I use wheels instead of legs so who is the real winner here!?”
Doctor, sportswoman and activist, Dani was involved in a motorcycle accident which left her in a 45-day coma with an above-knee amputation. She now works in the hospital where she was treated, motivated by the people dedicated to her recovery.
“I’m not one who tends to look in a full length mirror very often. I just don’t think about it much. But then there are those times I see a full length picture of myself and I can’t help but think, “Dang, I have one leg.” Any other amputees have this feeling?”
World Adaptive Surfing Champion, Dani has found peace in the sport and often explains that the ocean doesn’t see ability or gender. Fighting for para surfing to become an official Paralympic sport, she raises awareness for the need of an equal number of women and men. Her Instagram features relaxed and witty captions, amputee tips and motivating travel photos.
“I think it’s pretty rad all the different sides people can have. At work, I’m seen as a Physical Therapist, not a surfer or an amputee. In my personal life I’m seen as the latter. I’m humbled to have multiple sides and not be pigeon holed.”
Emma, ‘the girl who fell from the sky’, experienced a skydiving accident which left her paralysed at age 20. She sells her artwork and jewellery which feature motivational quotes and on Instagram, Emma openly discusses aspects of her life, as a walking paraplegic, that most may not be aware of:
“One day when I was living in the hospital, the doctors decided I had to learn how to pee by myself before I could get sent home. It was the most unnatural and difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. But life went on and from then I woke up, walked to the bathroom, picked up a catheter, and drained my bladder in a few seconds. It’s as easy as brushing my teeth. It’s as familiar as something I’ve been doing my whole life.”
Emma shares her stories with positive reception and profound comments, for example “you’re inspiring thousands …thank you so much for opening up about such a private part of your life” – @betianafaj.
“We adapt and we make ‘impossible’ situations a part of our everyday life. Sometimes things will happen that aren’t a part of the plan. But I promise, that thing that seems impossible to ever come to terms with… you will. You’ll be amazed by what you can adapt to.”
Many avoid talking about challenges which others haven’t experienced, as it may be difficult for them personally or they may feel it’ll stir a sense of discomfort in their audience. But in doing so, topics that tend to be avoided in society are opened up to discussion and can reach like-minded individuals, who may relate to these experiences and share their stories in turn.