My ‘problem’ with the word disability

Today was the first time I filled in a job application and ticked a box about a disability.

There was a question about whether I have a condition that may affect my work and I finally ticked the box. It took me 40 years. I ticked the box and then filled in another box with details. I wrote:

I am colourblind and I may have difficulty if things are colour coordinated.

That’s the truth. I have actually had difficulty at work in the past. It has been a ‘problem’. Some colleagues have helped me. Others immediately, others after a bit, and I have been brushed off, cause, well, she didn’t have the time.

I find it very difficult to do that especially when it comes to work cause I am an Alpha type gal who sets goals and tries to do anything. I have told myself over and over again that my disability is something that enables me to do so many other things. It challenges me, it makes me resourceful, stronger, but does it? Why do i find it so hard to accept the term disability?

Let’s look at the definition of disability,

an ​illness, ​injury, or ​condition that makes it ​difficult for someone to do the things that other ​people do


I cannot do what other people do.


True Story

My vision is quite bad, not just cause of colourblindness. I went to the eye doctor and she mentioned that I was entitled to a phone with bigger numbers and loads of other stuff at work. I laughed. Me? Do I need special treatment? No. I ain’t gonna have it.No way.

It’s actually people like me, who have a disability and cannot come to terms with it,  who make it difficult for the rest of those like me. I have written a zillion posts where I whined about my colourblind life. I have written even more about what I want to change, but when I get the opportunity for a change that would’ve made my life easier, I never took it. When it had to do with my work, I didn’t want special treatment. I was scared. I said nothing. It took me 40 freakin years to tick the box!


Is it because I have grown up in Greece and even from the ancient years, children with defects were chucked off mountains (Sparta)?I learnt this at school as part of history.

Is it cause I feel bad about myself? Not normal? Weak? Weaker than others?

Is it because of my personality. I am a tough cookie. I can deal with it. It ain’t a big deal.

Is it because I feel embarrassed or scared that someone will make fun of me?

This has actually happened.The number one question I get is, ” What do you think this colour is?” Recently a makeup artist was layering my lips with a lipstick so many times, just so I could ‘see’ the colour. My students have told me that the marker I was using was a different colour just to giggle. I was so pissed off, and sad.

I am always asking for help.  Is it the same for other people? What’s wrong with me? I feel so comfortable talking about colourblindness, but I could never tick the box………

 Today I did.

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6 thoughts on “My ‘problem’ with the word disability

  1. Hi Joanna,
    Thank you for sharing that. I know it can’t have been easy to tick the box, and I know some people might let that stop them, but I have to say that as an employer I’d much rather know about any potential problems people might have so I can try to reduce the impact on them (e.g. by not using colour-coded systems in your case, or supplementing it with shapes). I also feel that people who perhaps don’t appreciate that are probably not the kind of people you want to work with, though of course we don’t always have the luxury of that choice.
    Really looking forward to meeting you soon!


    • Hi Sandy!
      You are right. I think the hardest part is accepting the term. I don’t know why it took me so long! Maybe it’s also the fact that I saw it on paper. I had to physically tick something.
      As an employer I do get that letting you know is the best way to go, but as T. said, it is a very emotionally charged issue and not easy to talk about or admit that you need help. Dunno. Still trying to process this one…. See you soon!! At last!!


  2. Hi Joanna,

    Thanks for writing this article.

    I also dislike the word disability because people focus more on what you can’t do rather than what you can do.

    But everyone feels differently about disability, it’s a very personal and emotionally charged subject.



    • Hey T.,
      Thanks! It is an emotionally charged issue. It is very difficult to explain why accepting the word is so hard. Seeing it on paper maybe? Dunno.


  3. Hi Joanna,

    Thanks for a really interesting post – it made me think.

    I suffer from a chronic pain condition which restricts what I can do at times and is the main reason why I work freelance rather than in a full-time job (so I can manage my condition). Like you, it’s something I’m quite open about and have blogged about too. Yet, when I have applied for short-term jobs (like pre-sessional teaching), it’s never occurred to me to tick a disability box. I don’t think I’ve ever even hovered over it, to be honest.

    I suppose, like you, I’ve developed work-arounds or I just ask for help if I need it, so I know I’ll generally manage without any formal kind of help.

    Perhaps it would be different if I was applying for a long-term, permanent job … I think, I’d be more inclined to bring the issue up in an interview though where I can chat about it rather than just tick a box which could be misinterpreted. No one wants to be stuck in a box, do they?



    • Hi Julie,
      Maybe it’s the ticking, the on paper bit that makes it official, right in your face. Maybe that’s why I had such difficulty. Don’t know. Still thinking about it cause I do know that I don’t have a problem talking about it. My blog is like a .. campaign for colourblind awareness. It’s so hard to explain…..


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