The AccessLine Blog

Who can call the line (and what is disability)?


Author: Kristen Williams
Published: 2017-07-10


 You might’ve noticed that AccessLine is a support/crisis line for and by people with disabilities. In fact, we value the lived experience of PwD so much, that we require our Support Workers to also have lived-experience with disability, so that they can support callers from a place of understanding.

And that’s all well-and-good, until you get down to the nitty-gritty of what actually comprises a disability, and realize things are messy. For example, Webster’s Dictionary defines disability as:

a condition (such as an illness or an injury) that damages or limits a person's physical or mental abilities,”

Cool. So according to the experts on current vocabularily, disability is anything that limits abilities. By  that definition, people with cancer have disabilities, people with a bug that keep them in bed for a few days have disabilities. That sounds pretty inclusive right? If AccessLine were to adopt a similar definition of disability, than anyone struggling with a different ability level, however temporary, could call AccessLine.

But that definition isn’t the only one out there. In fact, just below that one on the Webster’s page, is this definition:

“the condition of being unable to do things in the normal way : the condition of being disabled.”

By this definition, anyone who deviates from the normal way of doing things (read: able-bodied norm) could call or text AccessLine. Even though seeing able bodied as “normal” is problematic, AccessLine values supporting anyone with an ability level that is different than what they’re used to, whether temporary or permanent.

There are many other definitions and discussions around what constitutes disability, found on websites like disabledworld.org or even in the bowels of the disability subsection on Reddit, and it’s a good way to lose a few hours contemplating disability. But, as far as  AccessLine goes, we support anyone who is experiencing a disability (physical or invisible), or change of ability, and we let them define how that change is labeled, and how it feels.