What I Am Thankful for as a Disabled Woman

One of my favorite memories from childhood Thanksgiving dinners is sitting around the table with my cousins and saying what we are thankful for. Inevitably, it would become a game with one statement being more ridiculous than the next. It would usually end with someone shouting I'm thankful for mash potatoes, turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, or pumpkin pie. Then we would all laugh and eat our food, without really thinking about what we were truly thankful for.

I'm grown up now, and I still love pumpkin pie, but I realize that I have so many more things to be thankful for. When I think of all the things I have to be thankful for I smile and my heart overflows with joy because I realize how each and every one of these things has revolutionized my life and made me into the person I am today.

Now, instead of being thankful for mashed potatoes, I am thankful for the laws that protect me, and help to ensure that I have opportunities, and the ability to be part of the world. Even though it's far from perfect, I am thankful for the ADA. I am thankful that my ability to access buildings, use public restrooms, and go places with my friends and family is considered a right and not a privilege. I am thankful that I have legal standing to challenge discrimination against me as a disabled person. I am thankful for the existence of curb cuts. I am thankful for the IDEA. I am thankful for the ability to go to school and learn. I am thankful for all the people who came before me and fought for these pieces of legislation, so that people like me would have a better life.

Now, instead of turkey, I am thankful for technology. Without modern day technology, my life the way I know it would not be possible. Without my power wheelchair I would not be able to get around independently. Without voice-activated software, I would not be able to write my blog, or my school papers. Without the internet, I would struggle to do research, and I would not be able to stay connected with many of my amazing friends all around the world. Technology has connected me to many of my greatest friends, and strongest community. Technology means relationships do not have to be bounded by borders, or distance and I am so thankful for that. I am thankful for technology because it has given me the opportunity to share my voice and experiences across the globe. I am thankful for technology because it has allowed me to find community and support without ever having to leave my bedroom. I am thankful for technology because of how it put libraries at my fingertips, and allowed me freedom of movement even though I cannot walk.

Now, rather than stuffing, I am thankful for family and friends who support me. I am thankful that although my parents may not always "get me" they support my desires, hopes and dreams. We've definitely had our differences, but my mom has always been my biggest advocate, and was involved in disability rights before I would even say the words. She has supported and helped facilitate my ambition, fighting for me before I could fight for myself, and going with me to conferences across the country. I am thankful for friends who love me for exactly who I am and always encourage me to be myself. I am thankful for friends who I count as family who have helped me through some of the roughest times in my life, and guided me into becoming the person I am today. I am thankful for the people who are always in my corner even when times get hard. I am thankful to know that I never have to be alone in this world.

Rather than sweet potato casserole, I'm now thankful for history and revolution. I'm thankful for Ed Roberts, Judy Heumann, Justin Dart, and all those who came before me. I am thankful for every single person who crawled up the capitol steps. I am thankful for the people who declared, "nothing about us without us," and fought for the rights of disabled people to make their own decisions and live their own lives. I am thankful to know the history, and know what it means to be a disabled person. I am thankful to have my own opportunity to be part of an awesome legacy of people who knew that you cannot wait for somebody else to change the world. I am thankful for strength, activism and the knowledge that we can and must do better. I am thankful to now be a part of this fight for a better and more inclusive world.

Now, instead of pumpkin pie, I am thankful for community. I am thankful for all the other amazing disabled people I know who have shown me the beauty of being myself. I am thankful to know that I never go through this journey alone. I am thankful that disability made me a part of something, rather than separating me from it. I am thankful for all the conversations of shared experiences I never thought I would have. I'm thankful for the mentors and the teachers who have taught me about disability history, culture and community. I am thankful for all the people who are there to remind me that I am not the problem, and that it is not me who needs to change, but society. I am thankful for the community that helped me learn to be proud to claim crip. I am thankful for the friends that I could not live without. I am thankful for the knowledge that I am part of a strong global family, and that being disabled is not necessarily a bad thing.

As I've grown, I realized I am thankful for so many things as a disabled woman. As I've gotten older I realize that while pumpkin pie is delicious, thankfulness doesn't only extend to seasonal treats, but to people and things that make life beautiful. When the turkey is carved, and the pie is finished, it's important to remember that there are still so many things to be thankful for.