#WhenICallMyselfDisabled: The Power of Language and Identity

"I'm happy to be disabled. I'm proud of who I am."

Disabled, Loud & Proud

Imani Barbarin is a disability representation and inclusion advocate born with cerebral palsy. As a communications professional, public speaker, writer and blogger, she explores disability culture as well as society and business’s perceptions of disabled people from the perspective of a disabled black woman. A graduate of the Masters in Global Communications program at the American University of Paris, she uses her skills to advocate for the representation, inclusion and empowerment of disabled people at the intersections of race and feminism both in the United States and globally. Familiar with the ways in which stereotypes and preconceived notions isolate disabled people and dictate the ways in which we interact with the world, she seeks to break every single one of them.

“I started #WhenICallMyselfDisabled because so many people want to correct me. It gets exhausting. 1:19 I've often heard when I've called myself disabled, “Oh, that's not who you really are.” Or “That's a horrible thing to say about yourself.” But no, it's really not. I'm happy to be disabled I'm proud of what I am. I'm not going to hide away and pretend like it doesn't exist and I'm not going to make any sort of euphemism to make you feel better. Footage: scroll of #WhenICallMyselfDisabled That's not going to happen. Not anymore.”

She won’t hold your hand through your discomfort. She will not bend my words to fit your mind. She will not conjure words that don’t exist. She will not pray over her body to make you smile. Just say the word. When she calls herself disabled, it isn’t up for debate. It isn’t a conversation starter. It’s not a launching point for a greater conversation. It is not only with word that explains her body, but it also describes the ramps institutions and businesses refuse to build. It calls out the wages the world still refuses to pay. It shows the world the inclusion the world is slow to produce. Discomfort with the word disabled doesn’t merely describe her, but so many others with the hashtag #WhenICallMyselfDisabled inspiring hundreds of people to take the power back around their identity and language.