by Ned Stoller Ned Stoller

Disability is:

  • A condition (such as an illness, injury or something you were born with) that hinders or limits a person’s physical, mental or spiritual abilities
  • The condition of being unable to do some things in a ‘normal’ way.
  • Something we might need to accept as a permanent condition
  • Sometimes partial and sometimes total.
  • Something that is not usually the disabled person’s fault
  • Something that may require a change in perspective
  • Frequently humbling
  • Something every person on earth has!

Disability isn’t:

  • What you are
  • Who you are
  • The end of life as you know it.
  • Something you have chosen
  • Something to fear

Disability can be:

  • An opportunity to meet new people.
  • An opportunity to face and conquer new challenges in life.
  • A frequent or regular temptation to give in to discouragement.
  • An opportunity to inspire or encourage others.
  • An advantage.
  • Something that can change your life for good.
  • A blessing.
  • An opportunity to realign your priorities.
  • An opportunity for personal growth.


                        For those of us who are disabled, whatever the cause or type, life has probably been changed in an unalterable way.  The way we ‘lived’ life before is something many of us will not be able to return to, and we might need to accept that fact.  If we don’t, we will limit our lives even more.   However, it is not WHO we are or WHAT we are.  The person that was there before the accident or illness is the same person as afterwards. 

            Each of us will have to face that battle of personal acceptance of our ‘condition’ in our own way.  When it comes right down to it, we each have to do it on our own.  But that does not mean support from others isn’t needed or helpful – it just means inside our own head and heart we must often fight to come to terms with it on our own.

This may be taken the wrong way, but the ‘level’ of disability is often dependent on how we view it.  Someone who is a paraplegic can be ‘less’ disabled than someone who has lost an arm.  If you have won the battle of acceptance (in your own heart) and choose to live life to its fullest no matter your condition, then you are less disabled than the one who wallows in self-pity – for whatever the reason. 

            If you think to yourself, “But now I’m dependent on others when I used to be totally independent!”  then you forget that we are all dependent on each other.   Being fully human is a condition of dependency on other humans – the castaway on a desert island would tell you that.  We crave and need human contact and relationships.  These are hard facts but the reality.  However, it is not just other humans we need.  All of us need God – who loves us all regardless of our self-defined disability or ability!

            Speaking as a disabled person, I can attest to this battle of having the right perspective.  This (at least for me) is an ongoing struggle.  It is not one that is won once and then the war is over.  It can be enormously frustrating to not be able to work in my chosen profession of veterinary medicine, a profession which I loved.  However, I take joy in the journey and try not to take for granted what I DO have, and not dwell on what was lost.

            We can make our lives all about our disability (ask my wife about how I fall into that sometimes!) or we can make our life about living with contentment and joy, giving to others, and making the most out of it we can. 

            Let us focus on “what disability can be” as opposed to the other two!