Warning: mysql_num_rows() expects parameter 1 to be resource, object given in /var/sites/d/disabilityarts.org/public_html/includes/behaviours/Behaviour.php on line 5657
Ems Coombes - disability arts online
This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit disabilityarts.online.

Disability Arts Online

On being a disabled person / 9 February 2011

When I was 17, I had a brain haemorrhage and a stroke. I had never worked with a disabled person. In no way did I think of myself as a disabled person. Even though I used a walking stick. Which is a lovely signifier of disability.

The first time I realised I was a disabled person was about four or five years later when I was at university. And we did a project with The Priory, which is the Community of St Mark and St Elias in Totnes, which does work integrating mentally and physically disabled adults back into the community again.

I realised from working with these people that if all hadn’t gone as well with the operation when I had the haemorrhage, that I could very easily be in their place. And that was not a mirror image but, you know, I was looking at what could easily have been my life.

So that was when I actually discovered that I was disabled. Even though, as I said, I used a walking stick, I was very slow, I can’t walk very well, I can’t handle steps very well. Although I have found that I’m getting better with time. Now that when I get used to it and know what I can do and my limitations.

But after the discovery of the guys and girls in the Priory, I decided to learn what it meant to be disabled. What it meant for me to have a stroke. Was there a place for me in the arts world? Which is when I discovered disability arts. And then everything fit into place.

And, you know, I know that being put or putting yourself in a box is not, you know – I’m talking stereotypes now; not literally putting yourself in a box. But, if you put yourself into these – into one of these categories, into one of these boxes, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Without me putting myself into the disability box, if you will, I wouldn’t know what – wouldn’t have known who I was. I wouldn’t have known what I was capable of. I would still be trying to keep up with the non-disabled people that I see. Which I still find myself doing sometimes - trying to keep up with everything, everyone else. Because I think that’s the right thing to do. Whereas I should let myself be me.

So, it was probably a good thing for me to put myself in that box. Because it’s a box where I feel comfortable. And where I don’t feel that I have to try to become someone that I’m not. I can be as kookie as I want to be.