Every time a new year rolls in, I write down a list of resolutions that I promise myself I’ll follow, all focused on self-improvement. Despite the fact that I strongly advocate for self-acceptance, my resolutions often end up as a list of goals meant to change myself to better fit what society deems acceptable. Not this year, though. For 2020, I’m using my New Year’s resolutions as an opportunity to take back my power. I’ve come up with five resolutions for myself and other wheelchair users, though they can definitely apply to people with disabilities different than my own.
1. Stop apologizing for taking up space.
I’m so guilty of doing this all the time. If someone asks me to move out of the way I’ll say I’m sorry. If someone isn’t paying attention and trips over me, I’ll say I’m sorry. If I’m told my wheelchair is creating a fire hazard even though the people around me standing up aren’t told the same thing, I’ll say I’m sorry. I’ll even suck in my breath as though that can somehow make my wheelchair smaller. I apologize profusely when anyone calls attention to the fact that I’m taking up room and I need to stop. Wheelchair users have a right to occupy space.
2. Don’t blame yourself if a place is not accessible.
Similar to my first resolution, this one also requires me to back away from my urge to apologize. All often, plans with friends and loved ones are foiled by inaccessibility. This sometimes ruins any attempts to be spontaneous, but it also happens even with careful planning. We’ll arrive somewhere only to discover several steps and all bets are off. So, what do I do? Apologize. No more! Inaccessibility is not my fault.
3. Try something new.
My fears of taking up too much space and encountering inaccessibility have at times kept me from going beyond my comfort zone. But a world that’s not designed with disabled people in mind shouldn’t be a reason to avoid new experiences. Join that dating site. Try a new mode of transportation. Play an adaptive sport. Pick something you’ve never done, big or small, and see what happens.
4. Prioritize self-care.
I’m absolutely not okay with the stereotype that wheelchair users are lazy, but I admit that I’ve sometimes allowed my disability to be an excuse for not taking better care of myself. While I’m not planning on doing a marathon anytime soon, I’ve decided to define self-care in a way that works for me. For you, that might mean shifting your weight more to avoid pressure sores. Maybe it means daily exercise. Or perhaps it means taking warm baths more often to soothe aching muscles. Whatever you do, take care of you.
5. Be proud of who you are.
I know this one is venturing into motivational speaker territory, but I’m being sincere. In a society so quick to judge disability, it can be a challenge to embrace yourself. I struggle with this often. But each time you take a moment to stop apologizing, to put yourself out there, to take better care of yourself…remember you’re doing it because you’re worthy. If you bring anything into 2020, let it be this: you are worthy.
About Emily Ladau: Emily is a blogger and serves as the editor in chief of Rooted in Rights. She co-hosts a podcast and has been recognized as an emerging leader in the disability community. Emily lives on Long Island and enjoys traveling and trying new restaurants. Click here to learn more about Emily.