You didn't know you had a disability boo

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Pronouns: she/her


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It’s June of 2020. Quarantine. I’ve just completed my sophomore year of college and the world has officially shut down…and yet I’m looking for an internship. I honestly didn’t have much hope looking for a film production internship amid a pandemic, but I promised myself I would at least try. 

After a few days of feverishly scrolling through LinkedIn, I found something. RespectAbility is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing people with disabilities in the entertainment industry and fighting against stigmas through legislation, workshops, educational programs, and more. I was immediately interested.

I’ve considered myself an ally of the disability community since I began learning American Sign Language (ASL) in 2015. I created and edited videos with closed captioning for the Deaf Ministry at my church, attended ASL classes at the local library on weekends, completed my high school senior thesis on how Hearing people can be more Deaf inclusive, and hosted a mixer with a local Deaf school. Needless to say, this internship had my name written all over it. I loved what they stood for and how they were actively making the entertainment industry a more inclusive and diverse place. 

After triple reading the fine print to ensure I qualified, I submitted my application.

Fast forward. I completed my first week of the internship, and everything is going peachy. Everyone was extremely welcoming, and I was already learning so much about the importance of accessibility. It’s Friday. I logged into the mandatory “Disability 101” workshop expecting to know most of the information they would share. I mean, at this point I’d worked beside the Deaf community for nearly 5 years, educated my sphere of influence on their ignorance, and encouraged a few friends to go to Thursday night ASL club with me at school. So yeah… I considered myself to be the Top. Tier. Ally. I was holding it DOWN. Purr.

The presentation begins and there’s not a notepad or pen in sight because I was oh so confident *eye roll emoji*...until slide #1. “What is considered a disability?” Their definition shook me up, it said something like… “a disability is a visible or non-visible condition that affects one’s day to day to life where they may need specific accommodations or accessibility needs.” Wait a dang minute. I grab my notepad and pen and start taking notes. As the presentation continues, another slide catches my eye. This one goes on to talk about accommodation and self-advocacy. A RespectAbility staff member, who uses a wheelchair, shared her experience of nearly missing a job interview because there was no ramp to get into the main entrance. Once inside, it was challenging to find an elevator. From then on, she calls ahead and asks about the accessibility of a building and arrives 15 minutes early to give herself time to maneuver. Now WAIT. A. DANG. MINUTE. This all sounds too familiar.

With my severe nut allergy, I have to take similar precautions before I just show up. Invited to a dinner party? I have to look up the menu and call the kitchen beforehand to see if it’s nut safe. Potluck? I can’t eat anything because there’s no label on it. Flying? I have to call the airline to request they not serve nuts on the plane. Shopping for a cute clutch? Sike, better up size because that bite-size telfeezy won’t fit my Epi-pen, smh. 

I connect the dots. So many thoughts come rushing to my mind. And that was the day I learned my food allergies were indeed considered a disability. Well, no wonder I was such a good ally for the community…I AM the community!

But in all seriousness, disability doesn’t discriminate. The disability community is one that you can become a part of at ANY point in your life when you least expect it, or one that you’re already a part of and didn’t even know it. 

If you have a fragrance sensitivity, diabetes, ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc. you lowkey disabled according to the Job Accommodations Network. Welcome to the community, we’re happy to have you!