Sport and ‘ability’: Am I no longer disabled then?

[Cross-post from my Facebook]

I saw a photograph taken by @inkysloth which was posted to Twitter. It’s of a paralympics advert that has recently popped up in New Cross, and it’s one causing a stir among disability circles (and a lot of annoyance from others in disability sport).

Paralympics billboard by channel four. It shows two Paralympians doing quite normal things, with 'disability' written across it. Only the 'dis' part is crossed out.

I was going to leave this with just my comments elsewhere but it’s bugged me (as I know it has a lot of people).

I was what you could loosely call an athlete, and I’m working hard to get back there.. I’m good at what I do, swimming. I’m also pretty disabled. Does this mean I’m not disabled anymore? Have I ‘risen above it’ like this suggests Paralympians have?

Like fuck have I.

A lot of very intensive training, designed to work with or around things I’m affected by, went into getting me to that point. Some very good coaches gave their time and assistance in assessing how I could get it right and improve. In places my disabilities are even utilised. That’s how it works… It takes figuring out and incorporating. Finding what fits.
When I get out the pool I still walk like a toddler (at times I can walk), still use mobility aids, and still can’t do a lot physically. I don’t magically get fixed because I can do intensive not-drowning well.

Limbs don’t grow back, illnesses don’t always vanish, but there’s another point… Why is my athleticism considered less than someone able bodied? Why is any of ours? The whole narrative of ‘overcoming’ disability, becoming ‘as good’, is drenched in that message (see also the grimness of being ‘inspiring’)

I was a member of the disability club where I swim, and there were some amazing swimmers there. In their own right. WITH their disabilities, and with no need to compare them to people who are able bodied, or anyone else. Their achievements shouldn’t be judged by a physicality they do not share.

I’m fucking proud of what I’ve achieved in swimming, as a disabled person. When I left the disability club for masters (a group that doesn’t focus intensively on it/mostly non-disabled), my disabilities were still a part of what I was doing, still taken into account, and things I had to consider constantly while I swam (and it’s a lot of thinking)

Disability doesn’t stop because we achieve things, and to suggest it isn’t just insulting but erases a big part of us; of our lives, our experiences, and our training.

(And yes. I know ‘but they mean Paralympians, not you’, but ableness is used as a yardstick for us constantly. All of us. This doesn’t help. Those Paralympians are still disabled too, they still got to that point with their disabilities, and they wouldn’t be Paralympians otherwise)