The above is a collage of photos showing some of the many different images of disability, difference, and chronic illness, some more expected than others. There are other examples I could have shown but I’m protecting my own and others’ privacy.  Alternative text / descriptions below:

from top to bottom, left to right:

  • my father with his guide dog, Jude, posing for a photograph after getting his degree, a 1st in history, after he had been registered blind.
  • my nana and great-nan (paternal) in the garden grandad planted for her. She had one partially working eye, thanks to diabetes type 1.
  • three photographs of myself rock climbing in Snowdonia on a bright day. The first two I am scaling the rockface. The last I am admiring the view with a brew. No one can see the congenital conditions I was born with that affect my coordination, amongst many other challenges. (age approx 18 yrs)
  • three photos of myself; one dolled up 1940s style, one on breathing apparatus in a hospital three weeks before, and one is taken, again glammed up at the graduation for my MA in Human Security. (all taken in my 30s)
  • the last line, three photos and a video: a black and white shot of a dynamic performance (years ago); a black and white image of me in a bed surrounded by grab bars and mobility equipment. A large cat on my chest; a black and white image of me in a wheelchair; a short video of my first use of a stairlift that helped end 5 months trapped entirely upstairs unless carried by paramedics. (from my 20s to 40)

There are other stories in my family and friends. So many people have their disabilities and special needs ignored because people cannot see them. Others feel it is only their disabilities that are seen, not their abilities. I have been and am many things. Whether our conditions, injuries or divergencies are visible or invisible, physical, mental, emotion or all of the above, each of us are far more than the challenges we face, we are the people who live with and overcome them, every day.