Being a disability advocate means standing up for what’s right and genuinely educating people. It means to show society that if we come together we can fix a serious issue that is negatively affecting people with disabilities’ lives every single day or to show society that we can live an equally successful life as an able-bodied person. Able-bodied people will never be able to fully understand what living with a disability is like and that’s totally fine, that’s what advocates are for. To talk about the problems that we come across, address them, and explain to people what a possible solution can be or even just letting society know how it makes us feel so people can understand.
People are so important. And being able to advocate appropriately and sufficiently means everything for our future in the larger community. People are architects. People are pilots. People can be teachers. People can be doctors. These are all careers in which people serve other people, and in order to do that effectively they need to understand people of all ages and ABILITIES. Having a disability can be tough. Half the things that we think about, able-bodied people probably never have to think a day in their lives and that’s fine, too. Why wonder who’s going to help you get out of bed in the morning if you can get yourself up? Until an advocate talks about it and explains how tough it can be to find reliable, kind people to help them shower every single day… that’s when people start thinking about it. And that’s what we want. We want people to understand our everyday life so that when they work with a person with a disability in their career or even just a normal encounter, they know how to communicate with them and they can kind of understand what sort of struggles we may or may not be going through. That’s why people are important. Because every single day a new law is written, or new establishment is built, or new appliances are being made and people are finally starting to understand what sort of requirements need to be met in order for people of all abilities to be able to utilize these services. Most of the people that make these decisions are able-bodied and need to understand our needs in order to make adequate choices for the disabled community. And it wasn’t until advocates spoke up about lawmakers unfairly deciding how we run our lives and establishments not having ramps or elevators and appliances being specifically modified for able-bodied individuals that people started to take a step back and put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
Being an advocate for people with disabilities means finding a topic where able-bodied people may not understand the obstacles we have to jump through on a daily basis and breaking it down in a way that’s easily and empathetically understood without making them feel uncomfortable or belittled. To do this successfully takes patience, empathy, and understanding. Being an advocate also doesn’t necessarily mean I, personally, come across every single obstacle that other people with disabilities do. This is very important. I never want to make myself seem like I am less able than another person with a disability just to prove a point. There are people with disabilities that have more needs than I do and it’s one thing to address a topic to make others aware and another to make my life look like I’m jumping through hurdles every move I make. Everyone has their own opinions but being able to efficiently and respectfully talk about a topic, whether I am the actual one going through the issue is crucial. For instance, I do not personally need straws when I drink out of a cup and currently a controversial topic in society is whether or not straws should be banned for the sake of the environment. Though I don’t utilize straws, I see the need for them in the disability community. Whether it be because someone does not have the strength to pick up their cup, or a jaw contracture that might limit their range of motion making it difficult to drink independently. Just because I don’t use straws does not mean I can’t advocate for it. As an advocate, I understand the need and will fight to make sure that every humans basic daily needs are met. Being an advocate means respecting people with disabilities’ struggles or successes.
Which brings me to my next topic, being an advocate for people with disabilities doesn’t always have to be about struggles and daily obstacles. It can and should also be about successes. Some negative characteristics society thinks of people with disabilities is pity, sheltered, unintelligent, unsuccessful due to their physical and/or cognitive impairments. As an advocate, it feels so good to share with people that we can hold down a job, or win a medal, or be as independent as possible. If society sees that we are living with the glass half full, they’ll start to see people with disabilities in a more positive way.
Pleasing everyone is close to impossible. But having the ability to think about all perspectives can be helpful to reduce the amount of controversy. Though I want to advocate and make able bodied people more aware, I also want to be sure not to offend others with disabilities that may or may not be going through similar situations. In addition, I want to ensure that people trying to educate themselves feel comfortable and entrusting in my words to help them understand our view of the world in order to gain equality. I find that a lot of able-bodied people are very uncomfortable with asking questions or finding the right words to effectively and respectively educate themselves. Openly advocating allows people to realize that we are open to answering questions and WANT people to understand what our daily life looks like.
Empathy is the biggest common denominator in becoming a true advocate. Being able to address people with disabilities’ needs respectively and understanding that some people have never even talked to someone with a disability is the key to advocating appropriately. Though there is no right way to advocate, I believe advocating means to help society understand that there is more than one reality in this world. Helping others understand each other’s reality will lead us one step closer to equality.
I didn’t even realize that my ENTIRE life I have been fighting for equality. Growing up I had to constantly fight back towards my parents and let them know that anything they let my brothers do I was able to do too. Just because I’m a girl, doesn’t mean I can’t hang with the boys or go to college or talk to who I wanted or dress how I wanted. I was constantly arguing with my stepdad when he tried to tell me my fitted T-shirt’s were too tight when they weren’t. Just because they barely showed curves of my body. As a child I didn’t even realize what I was actually fighting seeing as I was the only girl in my family besides my mom. I grew up with two brothers and all boy cousins but I’ve had this mindset the whole time. I’ve always known and fought for equality within myself and now I’m doing it with an entire country.
I attended the Women’s March of Chicago on Saturday and have never felt so united within our population. This was the most empowering day of my entire life. After Trump was elected, everything started to separate us. Our race, our gender, our sexuality, our religion, our abilities… but not on this day. Every single type of human that can breathe was represented on this day. Over 300,000+ Chicagoans cheered and marched and continue to fight for equality across all spectrums of our human race.
I grew up in a Muslim household. And growing up I always felt that people wanted nothing to do with my religion because it was too extreme or because it simply wasn’t anything like the religion they have or it was too conservative. On this day, a beautiful woman recited a part of the Qur’an that talks about how we are all one. At first I was nervous that people weren’t going to accept and enjoy the Arabic recitation but my friends told me how beautiful it sounded and the cheers afterwards were incredible. And then followed by an amazing, powerful speech by Asha Binbek of CAIR Chicago that reminded us that we are all warriors with a purpose.
I was also completely blown away by the amazing accommodations put in place for ALL disabilities. There were ASL interpreters, a wide screen with closed captioning, a special sectioned off area for those people and their accompanying friends to sit near the stage, assisted hearing headsets, and even loaner wheelchairs to make it easier for those who have issues walking far distances to go from the stage area to the entrance of the event. NEVER in my life have I seen such an amazing, inclusive, and efficient ADA services at an event before. I usually never use the ADA services at events because I feel left out of the crowd and it doesn’t feel like I’m part of the same energy as the rest of the people there. I was able to bring all my friends there, I felt safe, and I felt like I was still apart of the same energy if not more…. I also felt super VIP which is dope. 😏 AND the best part was that the disability services provided was put in place by a team of PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY HAD DISABILITIES! This was the most accessible outdoor event in Chicago HISTORY. #AMAZING . I tell people day in and day out, “the best people to choose to talk about and create accessibility services are the people living the reality of it everyday.” And that was exactly this. A team of people with disabilities that made sure every single disability was accounted for. Truly incredible.
I would also like to add that the EmCee, Fawzia Mirza, was hands down my favorite part of the rally. I have a mini crush on this beautiful human. Her energy was contagious. Her words were powerful. And it was completely genuine. Talk about a pep rally…. I’m in awe.
I have never in my life been to any event that I truly felt and saw every type of human being included. Even incarcerated people. Im not going to lie, before this event I never thought about how incarcerated people do not have a voice behind bars, but they should. They have families and opinions too and should be heard. Every. One. Has. A. Voice. And it’s about time people start feeling comfortable to speak out. Women especially. We live our lives ignoring when guys cat-call or slap our asses but instead shouldn’t let it happen to begin with. And a lot of people just sit back and think “this is the way things are, but WHY?!
I’m the type of person that likes to stay neutral in most situations which is why I’ve never been a fan of politics or even talking about politics. I say “most” because I’ve always believed that everyone is entitled to their own opinion except when it’s downright wrong or someone isn’t being treated right. And that’s exactly what’s going on in our own country. It’s wrong. My eyes have been opened and it’s time to speak up. Change is difficult and a lot of people would rather keep things the way they are and stay quiet but if WE don’t change it someone else that shouldn’t have power will and it won’t be for the better. We all have power. We are the controller of our own tomorrow. Like Channyn Lynne Parker said during her speech on Saturday, “no one is coming to save you from Donald trump. The best way you can fight him is to get to the polls and vote. Your silences will not protect you. The only thing more frightening than speaking your truth is not speaking at all.” Society has become so acclimated to the injustices that is our reality that they don’t believe change is possible. But it is. And part of that reality is belittling women, and the dreamers, and people with disabilities, and the LGBT community, and Muslims, and incarcerated people. All of these people are HUMAN and have a say in what their own future looks like. It’s time for change. It’s time for equality. This is for the history books y’all. Knowing that there is a LARGE group of people out there that CARE and feel the same way you do with no judgement of who you are or where you came from, that is what America is about. #TimesUp #WomensMarchChicago
So. I did a thing. I did a boudoir photo shoot. And I am flaunting it and proud! I did this shoot for many reasons. The first reason is for MYSELF and not for anyone else, but I’m happy to share it with you guys! The second is that I wanted to be able to do something sexy and not only feel sexy but I want to show people that it’s possible for people with disabilities to be sexy. The third reason is because the Groupon I found was a great fucking deal. Often times, people with disabilities are not seen as sexual beings and quite frankly it really pisses me off. One of the most popular questions I ever get when the subject of my disability comes up is, “Can you have sex?”
Yes. People with disabilities can have sex. Believe it or not. For those of you that don’t know how sex works……………. I won’t go there. BUT, it’s a ridiculous reality people with disabilities live in everyday. People with disabilities have to work twice as hard just to show people we are capable of being sexy or scoring a date or having relationships. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t happen… but it’s not always as easy as it can be for able bodied people.
Why is this? Why does sitting down constitute the inability to be or perform sexually? We’re not frozen solid and our asses are not nearly glued to our seats.
Society has molded what sexy is, who sexy is, and how sexy is.
But it’s such a limited view of the reality of sexy.
I’ve come to a point in my life where I am confident enough to say that I am in charge of my own tomorrow. I am Muslim, so I grew up in a very conservative household. It’s interesting growing up in this sort of household when you have a disability because it makes it a little more difficult to find yourself, especially in America. For example, growing up I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts or tank tops because a woman’s body is not meant to be shown off. It’s a sign of respect for yourself and to God. Since I have a disability and need help getting dressed, I didn’t really have too much say in what I wore. Plus, my mom also had terrible style so it made it that much harder.
Anyways… being able to find myself and become confident took a long time. Surrounding myself with people that love you and themselves and can truly make the biggest difference.
Learning to love yourself is not easy. It took me a very long time to get to where I am now and it can be mentally draining at times. I love being able to feel good about myself and my body especially having a disability. I’ve got what me and alex like to call “SMA body.” I have prominent ribs, rods in my spine, hip and knee contractures. Not your typical hourglass body. This alone makes it hard for people with disabilities to feel sexy or pretty because of what society has perceived to be a perfect body. There are some people that go through extreme workout plans to get that perfect hourglass body and have that option. I don’t have that option. I don’t really have any options to change my body to look “beautiful.” Being able to accept your imperfections makes you feel and look more beautiful; because at the end of the day, your imperfections are what make you your own perfect. (Super cliché… I know)
I’m not a perfect person. I have my insecurities too, but I would just much rather focus on what I love about myself which ultimately helps me accept the “not-so-perfect” parts. This photoshoot wasn’t just a confidence booster for me. It helped me find another part of me. It helped me figure out that my wheelchair doesn’t always have to be a part of my image, physically and figuratively. Yes, it is a part of me but it definitely can mask some really great bodily features. E.g. My ass.
Kidding. Kind of. Not really. It’s a great feeling to show people that my ass actually isn’t glued to the seat…. mind blowing, I know.
For those of you that didn’t just scroll to the bottom to see my photos… thanks for reading (: