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  • Shani Dhanda

Why I embraced my disabled identity

Updated: Jul 30

"Every single moment of my life has been lived through this lens, and I can't be separated from it and live a different life as if it doesn't exist."


Growing up, I was surrounded by #disability, by virtue of living with Osteogenesis Imperfecta and being around other #disabled people in hospital or at school. Yet, I never described myself as a disabled person despite being labelled as one and attending a special needs primary school. It just wasn't a part of my #identity I felt comfortable with, which is so ironic because living with a rare condition informs every decision I make and how I experience the world around me.


Let's face it, disability wasn't a term that was particularly positive, attractive or progressive 30 years ago. While we have seen some change around the perception of disability in society, that change has been slow, and there is still much more that needs to progress.

Now I'm a 30-something, well-travelled woman, and I'm happy to share that I have fully embraced calling myself a disabled person. But why?


Well, there are a few reasons:

  • While change has been slow, disability is definitely having a moment in society, and these changes are making it easier to be a disabled person than ever before:

  • The Government has several initiatives to help disabled people get into and stay in work, including the Disability Confident Scheme and Access to Work.

  • Businesses understand the prevalence of disability and are transforming experiences for their disabled employees and customers.

  • Retailers and service providers are beginning to understand the power of the 'purple pound', or the collective spending power of disabled people.

  • Better onscreen representation than ever before and dedicated programmes around disability. Don't get me wrong, onscreen representation of disabled people is still massively low, but it's improving. As a disabled Asian woman, I have never felt adequately represented in society, which is what motivated me to be part of the change that I want to see.

  • More individuals and organisations are adopting the social model of disability, which recognises that people are disabled by barriers and bias, not by their impairment or difference.

  • The final reason is about the day-to-day mundane things in life such as calling the disabled booking line to book concert tickets or if I need to park my car: sometimes I need to use a disabled bay and my Blue Badge.

It occurred to me that everything around me was labelling me as disabled just because I need to use certain services to go about my daily life.


My condition is and has always been a part of my identity, just like I'm a woman, I'm British, my ethnicity is #Indian, I'm a sister and a daughter. I can't be separated from it and live a different life as if it doesn't exist, because every single moment of my life has been lived through this lens.


Once I was at peace with that, I jumped in feet first, into owning this identity.

Since adopting this view and embracing my identity by calling myself a disabled person, I've become more empowered as an individual and now belong to a large community. It has motivated me to become a disability rights advocate and fight for everyday #equality.

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