As someone with a physical disability, I rarely discuss it because it has never really hindered me. My carbon fiber and titanium legs have taken me to incredible places, but this week I want to talk about disability inclusion. It’s important and we should be talking about it.
I was recently honored at a gala in Los Angeles for Inclusion Matters by Shane’s Inspiration, an incredible organization that builds inclusive parks worldwide for children with disabilities.
In my acceptance speech, I emphasized that the most challenging aspect of having a disability is not the disability itself, but the lack of accessibility that makes the world challenging to navigate. Inclusion means providing equal access to opportunities and resources for those who may otherwise be excluded or marginalized; and yet, we often forget to include disability in the conversation.
It’s not about being politically correct or following a trend. It’s about acknowledging the inherent value of uniqueness and ensuring that everyone can fully participate in society. It’s about celebrating and recognizing our differences rather than trying to erase them.
Although I’ve been an amputee for 20 years, I didn’t fully understand this accessibility issue until I suffered a vascular injury a few years ago and started using a scooter for long distances. Accessibility is often an afterthought for individuals without disabilities, but it is a fundamental human need. My scooter allows me to remain mobile and gives me independence, not just granting me access to the world, but also to my own home.
Despite my mobility device, I still encounter significant barriers. I am often the last person to disembark from a plane and have had to navigate airports with broken elevators and uneven floor maps. I’m also on my fifth scooter in five years due to airline damage, but I share this not as a complaint but to highlight that society remains largely inaccessible over 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) law was passed.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a video I shared of a well-known public figure with millions of followers bashing a SKIMS clothing campaign featuring a model in a wheelchair. If you haven’t had a chance to watch this video, you can find the clip on my Instagram @amypurdygurl. The level of ignorance and privilege displayed in the video was sickening. While I aim to provide valuable, inspiring, and uplifting content on my platform, it’s also essential to stand up for my values and the community that has become my family.
People with disabilities make up the largest minority group globally, with over 1.3 billion people, or approximately 16% of the world’s population, living with some form of disability. We are a complex and diverse population, yet proportionately, we are the least represented in media campaigns and fashion.
No matter who you are, what you do, or what your background is; you could wake up tomorrow with a disability and It’s hard having a disability. Even after it’s become normal for that individual, all disabilities are challenging. It’s hard using a wheelchair and trying to get dressed. Imagine, trying to clasp a bra with one hand, or a hand that doesn’t work as well. Imagine eating while your body is shaking uncontrollably. Imagine knowing that you’re brain isn’t connecting logic due to PTSD or a TBI, but being unable to push through it.
We shouldn’t talk about disability inclusion because it “feels good.” We should discuss it to normalize the conversation. A few years ago, I participated in a clothing campaign with Beyond Yoga not to promote disability, but to be included as a model, just like any other model bringing their unique style to the campaign. I was praised for the project. Today, only a few years later, this woman in the SKIMS clothing campaign is being ridiculed and criticized to make a political statement.
It’s heartbreaking that I have to say this, but inclusion is not up for debate. We belong simply because we do.
It’s amazing that SKIMS came out with an adaptive collection so that people can get dressed easier. They created a solution for us, real humans, out here in the world, trying to accept, adapt, learn, and grow. But it shouldn’t be amazing, It should be normal.
I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact that inclusivity can have, both in my own life and in the lives of others. When people with disabilities are allowed to participate and contribute, everyone benefits. I hope that we can continue to make progress toward a more inclusive world, where everyone has the chance to thrive, succeed, and live inspired.
Keep the conversation going! Like, share, and comment on my Instagram.