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  • Writer's pictureNeil Hopper

Am I disabled?

The most difficult part of my current situation is knowing my place in the world. Two-and-a-half years ago I was plucked off the chessboard and put down on a different square. Everything changed. My body changed and my mind changed. The way I looked at myself and the way others looked at me drastically altered overnight. Without warning I had become something else... I'm now meant to be "disabled" but I really don't feel that label fits me. Is it internalised ableism? Is it me not being able to face the truth? Or, because I function reasonably well on prosthetics, am I simply just not disabled?

How can it be that an individual who is missing both feet not be disabled? Well, I have to face reality... without my legs on I'm pretty disabled. I move around on my knees and shuffle up and down the stairs. I use a wheelchair to get around the house and please don't ask me to get something off a shelf. When I am "on wheels" I am very much like a Dalek and totally frustrated by steps!

But, with my legs on, I can walk really well. Sure, they get uncomfortable, and yes, sometimes I can't face putting my nubs into the constricting plastic sockets, but mostly they're not bad. I know that I am very lucky in this regard. My legs are generally the second thing I put on in the morning after my glasses (and before my clothes as threading legs through trouser legs is a nightmare!) and the penultimate things I take off at night (before my glasses). On occasion I have worn them for 20 hours solid without too much difficulty.

I have legs for work, for general use, for sports and for use in water. I actually have more feet than shoes! So, with a bit of tinkering I can pretty much do whatever I want to... and therein lies the problem - I do a lot more now than I did when I had the full compliment of limbs! That is why I struggle with the label disabled. If anything I am "enabled." I have stared into the void and have come back stronger and fitter!

So, I think I've decided. I'm not going to consider myself disabled and I'm not going to consider myself able-bodied. I am definitely not going to consider myself as "differently abled" as that term seems too clunky and inelegant. It doesn't serve my purpose.

I'm not going to kid myself - I am not disillusioned. I know, deep down, that I'm disabled. I am, however, going to park that notion and consciously choose not to think that way. I hope I don't offend my tribe of limb challenged peeps - but, for now, at least I'm going to settle with the label "CRAP CYBORG!"

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