J: Laurel, you mentioned that listening to the podcast might be the first time that some people close to you will learn you have impaired vision. It is interesting that for each of you having an online persona can provide the choice of when, or even if, to reveal a disability. Could you each share a little bit about your own experience related to a visible or invisible disability?
L: In my specific case I have both lived with a visible and invisible disability. From when I was baby up until the 9th grade I wore very thick glasses that made it fairly evident something was amiss in the good ol’ vision department. The summer before high school however is when I got my first pair of contacts and no longer wore thick glasses. I think there was good and bad to each.
When I wore my glasses I was certainly bullied a lot more and stared at a lot more, which didn’t feel so good. However, it was easier in that, a big part of my life was there for people to literally “see”. When I began to no longer wear glasses, I found myself hiding my disability a lot more and in some ways it was harder. I made up more excuses when I wore contacts, why I couldn’t do or see something, whereas with my glasses it was more obvious. It didn’t feel great to be bullied because of something that was a part of me; however it also didn’t feel great to hide who I was. Now, I have since had surgery that only requires me to wear glasses for distance. I have also become more forthcoming about my disability to those around me so, I guess I have found my middle ground.
C: For me, I didn’t have a chance to hide my disability because of my wheelchair. But what I did have the option to hide was what life was really like. It’s taken me a long time to accept who I am as a person and I’m now finally okay with telling my truth. It’s scary when you have to learn that it’s okay to ask for help. I hope that everyone is able to find a safe space to use as their platform to tell their truth!