How do you identify?

You may not identify with the term disabled, or having a chronic condition, especially if you're newly diagnosed or have an invisible condition that can pass, and that's okay. Words have power to define, limit or empower, and you need to be able to influence that dynamic.

What does disability mean? Disability policy scholars describe four historical and social models of disabilities:

  1. A moral model which regards disability as the result of sin; this model has been associated with shame on the entire family with a member with a disability;
  2. A medical model which regards disability as a defect or sickness which must be cured through medical intervention;
  3. A rehabilitation model, an offshoot of the medical model, which regards the disability as a deficiency that must be fixed by a rehabilitation professional or other helping professional; and
  4. The disability model, under which "the problem is defined as a dominating attitude by professionals and others, inadequate support services when compared with society generally, as well as attitudinal, architectural, sensory, cognitive, and economic barriers, and the strong tendency for people to generalize about all persons with disabilities overlooking the large variations within the disability community."

You may be thinking, "But I'm not disabled. I don't have [blank], or I don't have [blank] that bad." Some students reject the term disabled, or are uncomfortable with using it, and others find that there is much to gain from adopting the term disabled to take advantage of protections through the University.

No matter how you choose to identify yourself, there is power in knowing who you are. As athlete, actor and activist Aimee Mullins says, "It is our humanity, and all the potential within it, that makes us beautiful." (See Aimee's fabulous Ted video.)