You Don’t Look Disabled…Changing an Ableist Narrative

Michelle Renee Kidwell
5 min readJun 14, 2022

“It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me…”

― Helen Keller, writer and activist. The Open Door

I am disabled, but that does not always mean it’s noticeable, you can’t look at me, and say oh she has a neuromuscular condition, because there is not one way any one person with any specific condition looks, there maybe characteristics that show a condition, but we are not all cookie cutter images of one another, we aren’t carbon copies, so when someone looks at me, finds out I have a disability, and there first reaction is to say, “oh you don’t look like someone who has a disabilty….” I inwardly shutter, and if the occasion merits it, I take the time to educate the person or people speaking.

1;) Not everyone with a disability is in a wheelchair, nor do we all look the same. There is no certain way anyone with a disability looks. And we don’t wear a sign that tells someone we are disabled, many disabilities are invisible, it doesn’t make the disability less debilitating, it makes there particular disability or disabilities less visible.

Another thing that often happens and though I’m sure the person means well, is the way they will apologize for my condition, or pain, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with them. I learned to adapt to my life, a long time ago, and it’s a good life, my disability doesn’t change that.

2:) The vast majority of those with disabilities, do not need your apologies or pity, unless you purposely hurt them, by say, getting behind the wheel, after having to much to drink, even then it’s not likely they are going to want to dwell on the one event that changed their life, when life is certainly not defined by one life changing event.

I am a Child of God, a Christian who years ago, left the Mormon Church with good reason, but my memories of the Mormon Church do not include a single one of meeting anyone with a disability, so I can’t say they accepted or rejected those with disabilities, but I have been to churches that treated those with disabilities in a way that would make one feel broken, like they…

Michelle Renee Kidwell

Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge in the light: Helen Keller