My name is Elisabeth and I am 15 years old. While on vacation this year, my mother read an editorial from US News to me written by a human rights activist who was complaining about other people who still don't understand people like her. People like me. People with disability labels.
In the article, she was asking why people still think that her life (or my life) is less valuable just because we look different and depend on a lot of people to get everyday things done.
The point is this. Just because we look different, act different, or cannot communicate the way most people understand does not make our life worth any less than our biological peers.
When I found out that some people would rather die than spend the rest of their life in a wheelchair, it really disheartened me because I will probably be in a wheelchair all my life and it's really not all that bad except when you have to wait for people to make a clear pathway for you. Or when it takes a half hour to get into a building to which most people have direct access.
It's really not that bad when I have to wait for my parents to do things that most people take for granted like using the bathroom, brushing my teeth, and combing my hair. I'm working on that and other things into my own independence, but it would be a lot easier if I didn't feel the pressure all the time to be like the other kids.
I am who I am. Not because of what I can't do but what I can.
I'm pretty happy for a 15 year old. I don't have the peer pressures that most teenagers have my age. I enjoy being around people, listening to music, and dancing. I love to hear jokes and be around laughter. I enjoy being outdoors and backpacking up in the clouds.
This year, when my family was on our annual backpacking trip, I heard them talking about inventing a backpack on wheels for when I get heavier and taller after they read an article about a man whose friends did just that after being injured in a car accident.
This made me happy that people were thinking ahead to include me in the future. I can't imagine any child or adult being excluded from any opportunity because nobody thought ahead. Nobody had room for them.
I can't find the editorial right now but if you come across it, it's in the "Best Hospitals in the US" August 2009 magazine. Even though it echoes Ms. Harriet McBryde-Johnson's concern about how the population of people with disabilities are losing control over their life, she would be very happy to know how many more people are fast on their wheels to dispel all the information and arguments about how our life appears to be worth less because of the way we were born.