I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked variations of the question: “If there was a pill that could cure your disability, would you take it?” Though the short answer is a resounding “No!” I rarely get the chance to elaborate on the complex feelings and emotions that are behind my answer.
Here’s the long answer: I definitely have moments where the thought of an instant cure gives me pause. I wonder what life might be like as an able-bodied version of myself. I try to envision myself walking around the mall or running after a soccer ball. I try to picture myself climbing a tree or jumping rope. But thinking about these things is mind-bending for me because they’re not part of my life. And I’m okay with that. I don’t have a burning desire to walk or run or climb or jump like an able-bodied person, because such actions have never been part of my life to begin with. Since I was born with my disability, I don’t feel that anything was taken away from me. It’s simply not possible to miss something I never experienced.
I think “cure” is actually a rather loaded term in relation to my disability, because to cure something implies that you are returning the body to its normal state. My disability is my normal state. To cure me in accordance with the medical definition of the word would not only give me new abilities, but also essentially transform me into a whole new person. I can’t imagine myself as an able-bodied person, because I never was an able-bodied person. I’ve embraced my disability as a huge facet of my identity, and I take pride in it.
While I don’t define myself solely by my disability, having a disability has undeniably shaped who I am. Without my lived experiences as a disabled person, I would be a completely different Emily. And as tough as certain aspects of my life have been, and though I know I will continue to face disability-related challenges throughout my life, I wouldn’t trade my life for a minute. My disability has given me a place in a community and a culture; it has been the reason why I’ve had amazing adventures and unforgettable experiences. To walk freely up and down stairs for one day would never measure up to the things I’ve done because I have a disability.
So, my answer is still no. No, I would not take a pill for a cure. That being said, it’s not my place to judge another person for answering “yes.” I understand that disability is a highly unique experience from one person to the next, and I can’t say that my opinions on “curing” disability are the only way to think about it. For instance, it is completely reasonable to search for cures for degenerative or painful diseases and disabilities. If I could take a pill to cure the pain I experience, I would do that in a heartbeat. But I don’t want to change who I am. We should be looking to cure the pain, not the person.
We should not be trying to cure disability or disease because society sees it as something to devalue. And for that matter, if the reasoning behind “curing” disability is about eradicating differences from society, then I think we should cure society’s ableism instead. We should make it a priority to eliminate access barriers and prejudiced mindsets, rather than focusing on eliminating disabilities. But to find ways to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for people – those are the right reasons to support finding cures.