Awesome Humans 08 Sep
Can disability be a positive part of your identity?
By Rebecca Dubber
When someone asks you, “who are you?” it’s at that moment that you call on the list of things that define who you are, a unique list that differentiates you from the masses and makes up your unique identity.
When I sound off my list, these are the things that define who I am; my name is Rebecca, I’m 28, I’m a fiancé, daughter, sister, friend, aunty, Paralympian, writer, speaker, model, and I’m disabled.
If you’d asked the 20 year old me to tell you about myself, I might have sounded off most of the above. However, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned my disability.
At 28, I sit here writing this blog as a proud disabled woman. My disability is something that I have grown to love about myself as I began to recognise the role it has played in shaping the person I have become.
I recently spent five months working on a Podcast series with my best friend Olivia. We've known each other for almost ten years, and it’s probably safe to say that Liv was one of the first disabled friends that I had.
Over the time of our friendship, we’ve had many conversations about disability representation in mainstream media and how annoying it is that disabled people’s stories are often distorted or used as inspirational fodder.
Having both worked in the media/communications sphere, we’d often end these conversations by talking about what we could do to change the narrative; this would usually end with either an idea to start a YouTube channel or a Podcast.
They always seemed like ’one-day’ ideas, so it’s a dream come true that we’ve had the opportunity to bring the latter to life. Of course, we have Stuff.co.nz, All is for All and EveryHuman to thank for helping us make it possible.
Okay, so I’ve pivoted slightly from talking about identity, but I promise it will all link up!
When we first started brainstorming ideas for the episodes, we knew Identity needed to be part of the conversation. Both Liv and I are super proud of our disabilities and the wonderful community built around ourselves of other awesome disabled people.
But we also know that not every disabled person has had the identity journey as us, so we wanted to bring in a diverse group of people to talk about their identities and how disability does or doesn’t fit into their unique list.
One of the questions we asked our guests and ourselves was if you could take a magic pill that took away your disability and made you non-disabled, would you?
You’ll have to go and listen to the episode to hear everyone’s answers, but I’ll share mine as a bit of a teaser.
The truth is, I wouldn’t take the pill. Maybe if you went back and asked 20-year-old Rebecca, she would, but present me is 100% happy with who I am, disability and all.
I can hear a few people in the back thinking that I’m a little crazy for not wanting to join team no disability, but honestly, my life is incredible. All the fantastic things I have achieved like swimming at the Paralympics, travelling the world and building a super successful career have all been because of my disability and not despite it.
So here I stand, *ahem* I mean sit, proud as punch to include my disability as part of my identity. It’s not for everyone, so I’m not saying you have to yell it from the rooftops.
But suppose you’d like to hear a few different perspectives on how other disabled people identify (or don’t) with their disabilities. In that case, I’d encourage you to check out our Identity Episode on our Podcast called “What’s Wrong With You?” - available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Also, a big thank you to EveryHuman, New Zealand On Air, Stuff.co.nz, and All is for All for helping make it possible.
Picture: Rebecca Dubber and Olivia Shivas posing for WWWY Podcast (2021)
Identity Episode Description: Olivia and Becs hear from guests who are smashing perceptions of disability - from having to prove your intelligence when you are non-verbal to redefining masculinity as a bloke in a wheelchair. They also find out how much money you should spend on shoes when you can't even walk. You can listen to it here!