You have a disability, but you are not disabled
headshot of Joseph Down - author of this blog post

The Lantern is pleased to introduce guest blogger, Joseph Down and his recurring column, Through My Eyes.

Born in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Joseph has been a resident of Central Florida for the past twenty years. At the age of five, Joseph was diagnosed with retinoschisis, a disease characterized by a splitting or scaring of the retina.

Graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in Sport Management, Joseph began his professional career as the owner and operator of The Rock Athletic Center, a sports training facility in the Winter Park area. During the fall of 2016, Joseph transitioned to the Geneva School where he became the athletic facility manager. Over the past few years, Joseph has begun to seek opportunities in public service; running for Seminole County School Board and most recently joining Lighthouse Central Florida’s public policy committee.

The views expressed in Through My Eyes do not necessarily reflect the views or official position of Lighthouse Central Florida.

You have a disability, but you are not disabled
by Joseph Down | Through My Eyes

Coping with a disability is challenging. Physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically it is hard. A visual disability can turn tasks such as filling out paperwork at the doctor’s office, reading a label at the grocery store, or even watching television into a strenuous endeavor. While the physical obstacles are challenging, it is the mental effects of coping with a disability that weigh on an individual. Knowing that every day you will wake up and that disability will still be with you can be overwhelming.

Over time it can seem as if you have become your disability. It is this sense of despair--a sense that things will never get better or easier that can turn even the most optimistic person sour.

More than the challenges, more than the thoughts of despair, more than the daily obstacles, it is giving into the notion that you are disabled. It may seem minimal, but understanding that you have a disability and are not in fact disabled is a huge mental hurdle to clear in the coping process.

You are more than your disability. These words may often fall on deaf ears due to the numerous times they have been told to you, but once they have taken root and those words become belief, they can empower a person to overcome any and all obstacles.

When you start to see yourself as having a disability and not disabled the lens through which you see others begins to change. Everyone has something they struggle with that strains their daily life in some capacity. For some, it may be as serious as a disability or addiction and for others, it may be time management or self-discipline in regards to their diet. People are faced with challenges every single day. They come in all shapes and sizes and all levels of varying degrees. Resolve, motivation, perseverance, and resourcefulness, these are the traits that push us to overcome our obstacles and make the most of a bad situation.

Everyone has something that disables them in some way or another. For some, the disability may be classified legally: blindness, deafness, autistism. For others, it may be more emotional such as the death of a loved one or loss of a job. Nevertheless, everyone has obstacles in their life. However, it is when we give into and become our disability that we truly are disabled. Choose to be more than the obstacles and challenges in your life.

Choose to accept their existence, but then choose to conquer them. Use those hardships as a springboard to success yet unfathomed. Use them as a tool to better yourself, to better others. But ultimately, use them as a reminder that you are more than the challenges of your current situation. You were not cursed with a disability. You were blessed with an opportunity to adapt, overcome, and empower others to do the same.