Yesterday I was sitting in a mall people watching, like I’ve done a million times before. Except this time my mind was focused on something different. I was thinking about how many of those people walking past me have some kind of disability and how many disabilities are not visible to the naked eye. Almost twenty years ago, when applying to graduate school, my plans were to do research on and design technologies to support people with disabilities. I was heavily influenced by one of my best friends being in a major accident and wanting to change the world for people who had different abilities. Once I got to graduate school, my career took a different path and I wound up working with different populations/user groups. Yet now, my life has come full circle and I find myself IN that original group of people I was focused on. Isn’t life interesting?
I know that I look the same as I did before part of my brain was taken out. I still talk the same, I have the same sense of humor, I am still the same person (well, now that I’m off those damn steroids). Yet I am not the same person. My vision is blurry. I can’t see to the left at all. My cognitive processing is a bit slower and I can’t multi-task nearly as well as I used to. I definitely won’t be driving anytime soon.
If I were one of the people walking by me in the mall, I would not have picked me out of the crowd as someone who has a disability at all. And I reminded myself that just because someone isn’t in a wheelchair or some other recognizable tell, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t dealing with something incredibly difficult every single day of their lives. And in that moment, sitting in the mall yesterday, I appreciated my life that much more. We’re all awesome in our own ways.