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Disability, Identity and Being Human

The back to school buzz is in the air and soon I will be part of the mayhem as I begin my Masters Program in History. Over the course of the next two years, I anticipate that my thesis will be refined, redefined, reworked and, with any luck, completed.

History, for me, is about people and their stories. It is fluid and linear, as it ebbs and flows, intersecting in the ‘here and now’ like a whisper and other times raging like a caged wild animal. Regardless of the course I might be taking, the focal point of my research often weaves its way back to my fascination with identity - who we are and how we came to be who we are.

Disability is a Universal Phenomenon

These days, I find myself curious about the relationship between identity and disability. For most of us, disability is something that ‘happens’ to other people. But what does that really mean? Should we be fortunate to live long enough, chances are likely that we’ll experience changes within our bodies and minds that will infringe on our ability to function in ways that we did before. What if disability is something a person experiences and not a label used to define who someone is?

What if a person’s lived experience with disability is an essential component in understanding our collective identity and vulnerability as human beings? From a global perspective, for many people living on the other side of the world, experiencing disability is inevitable. Disability is, in fact, a universal phenomenon that many people experience or will experience within the context of war, economics, geography, poverty, and circumstance.

I think George Orwell might be onto something when he said, “The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” Perhaps it is in this ‘essence’ that our humanity is revealed. Historically, this perspective seems more critical today than ever before.
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