January 19, 2021

[Voices] Disabled: Where Do We Fit In Society?

I have known both sides of the coin. I was born healthy with non-disability. In 2003 due to medical negligence, I regressed from crutches into a wheelchair. It was a hard blow both emotionally and physically. I was an independent self-employed beautician doing quite well for myself where I worked in a salon. My work was my passion so it never felt hard for me to do.


My satisfied clients were a greater payment than money, therefore my rates weren’t high. Word of mouth soon had our salon a buzz. Then it all changed when I fell one night and received the wrong treatment. Suddenly the job I loved was no longer there. My loss of income cost our home and its contents. My husband and I rented a room in someone’s home, where we lived cramped up with our two children.

I struggled for 5 years to qualify for a grant as the doctors did not want to sign off as it would be admitting guilt. My folder went missing too many times to keep count and my health deteriorated as I was told my injuries were a figment of my imagination. I became depressed and did not want to live as I felt like a burden to my family.

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My sister’s got me a wheelchair and I became an entrepreneur, selling chocolates for special occasions. I have always been a people’s person and missed interacting with other people. My friend updated my CV and I started applying for disabled positions. I managed after many closed doors to land a 1-year internship working at head office in credit services. We were the first group of disabled people. Our successful integration will open doors for future applicants. It was very hard as the staff were very hostile towards us and thought we threatened their jobs.

We were spoken to as if we were mentally challenged not physically. Insensitive and ignorant members of society would move to the side and hold their breath when I would get into a lift. In a mall, they would ask my husband or family member questions about me as if I was deaf and invisible. My family would answer ‘shes right there, ask her yourself”. I would see the nervous darting of their eyes as they struggled to make eye contact. In the end, they would smile nervously in my direction and moved along.

I got really determined to make my mark. I was in a wheelchair but my mind was eager to learn and adjust to this new life and be a positive contributor to society. I became the top credit agent in our department. Then just as I found my niche, I was dealt another blow. This time it was my right shoulder that was originally injured and later learned was never fixed. I was unable to use it and I struggled to wheel myself. When I went for the operation to have it fixed my lungs collapsed. It was later confirmed that high dosage of painkillers caused GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). The valve that controls my stomach acid tore and leaked into my lung. I was later diagnosed with fibrosis of the lungs.

I continued working but as the disease progressed, I went from a full week to half days. In the end, my body couldn’t cope anymore and I was forced to resign.

I am more confident today even with my health challenges to speak up when treated unfairly. Working as a physically challenged person gave me the backbone and restored my dignity as a person. I made peace with my circumstances and encouraged other disabled and abled people to focus on what they do have and their strong points and make it work for them.

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In society, we do not have a strong enough voice to speak for us in parliament and society. There is no one to truly address the issues we are facing in society. We are not a priority for housing or have a disabled representative. How can an abled body ever understand our needs if they have never experienced our daily challenges and frustrations?

I would visit the Spur and there would be booths that don’t accommodate wheelchairs. I would wait at a disabled toilet and an abled body person would emerge with their kids in tow. People cutting in line because they didn’t see me because I am sitting down.

I am not looking for empathy but respect just like any member of society.

Article by  Dulecia Lunde 

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