Lucy Webster (@Lucy_Webster_) is a politics and international relations graduate from Warwick University. She was named Student Columnist of the Year by the Guardian in 2014 and is now a freelance journalist, writing on social and political issues including disability and foreign affairs; recently she wrote a really interesting article for The Guardian (UK newspaper) on her thoughts about being a trailblazer in life ‘simply’ because she is a disabled woman and how, sometimes, she would like to be seen first not as her wheelchair but as just the person.
This is something that I can very much relate to.
You see (or maybe you don’t, but that’s ok because that it what I am trying to help you with here) is that sometimes it can be hard putting a positive face on when you are ill, or hurting, or struggling (or all three) or facing the obstacles that living with a disability can hurl your way. The very last thing that you want – on top of everything else that you deal with on an ongoing, daily basis – is for the world to look at you and see you as your disability first and foremost or, even worse, only. You know, last time I looked in the mirror at least, I don’t have a neon sign above my head with an arrow pointing down at me with the words CONGENITAL MYASTHENIA in bold text, or SPINA BIFIDA decals on my jackets, I don’t even have a blue wheelchair tattooed on me so that I get to park anywhere I choose if I forget my blue badge (though that ‘could’ be handy I suppose 😉 ). In fact in polite company most people ask for my name before asking me for my medical background …even the many doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and occasional witch-doctors (you never know they might just work 😉 ) still get my name before getting down with the faulty genetics you know.
It’s something that I still struggle with myself; I realise the importance of equality and especially diversity in everyday life but especially my own little corner of geekdom which is genre fiction, comics, and gaming where women, people of colour, non-straight, and disabled people are underrepresented so when I am asked if I would be interested in being considered for an anthology, or another piece of work, you would think that I would be really up for it wouldn’t you. You’d think …
…but there’s a part of me that is still really coming to terms with the fact if I am being asked to these things because I am a disabled writer who is pretty good, or a pretty good writer who also just happens to be disabled. I have to admit that worries me, perhaps more than it should.