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  • Kendall

Austin Knows How to Treat People with Disabilities

I am a freelance columnist for Friedreich's Ataxia News. I was recently published on my column, My Darling Disability, and I wanted to share it here, too. You can either read it by following this link, or just keep scrolling below.

Earlier this year, I was extremely nervous about using my walker in public. Previously I had been able to “hide” the effects of my Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). I used shopping carts, friends, or strollers for stability. However, my FA progressed to the point that I needed more reliable assistance. Enter, the walker.

I thought using the walker would immediately make people treat me as “disabled.” I didn’t want that, despite technically being disabled. I feared how a disability would change my life.

I am so pleased, humbled, and proud to say that my “disability” has been met with nothing but love, patience, kindness, and empathy. Men, women, and even children go out of their way to hold doors open for me, carry things for me, move obstacles out of my path, shoot me a kind smile, or at the very least, treat me like a normal human being. None of this has ever made me feel disabled or unaccepted — it has just felt like encouragement.

I attribute that largely to where I live: Austin, Texas.

Every city has its charms, quirks, and personality, along with its pros and cons. Austin is no different in that respect. Located in the heart of the great state (the greatest state, in my unbiased opinion) of Texas, Austin has a pretty unique reputation.

I never know what to expect when I tell people where I’m from when I travel. The unofficial slogan of Austin is “Keep Austin Weird.” I think the city lives up to that in many ways.

Some people refer to the city as the “live music capital of the world.” Others note its excellent food scene.

When I think of Austin, I think of home. Austin has all of my favorite things: my family, my friends, great food, endless adventures, thriving culture, breathtaking views, and wonderful people.

I could detail countless stories of kindness in recent months. Each act of acceptance makes a huge impression on my heart and my outlook.

I know that not everyone facing disability or adversity encounters the same attitude I receive, and that breaks my heart. I know that just like every city in the world, Austin is made up of imperfect people. I am sure that I will endure some maliciousness or unfairness in the future, and on that day, I hope I have the strength to remember all of the good and kind people I’ve encountered.

We are all doing our best to get through each day. For some people, that might look a little different. I use a walker to get through my day safely. That doesn’t make me any more or less deserving of kindness than anyone else, but I surely do appreciate it greatly.

I am writing this to remind you to be conscientious. Choose to make your encounters with others positive — be a light in the world. Be the good encounter someone remembers. Speaking as someone who tends to expect darkness, I declare that kindness matters. It is so simple, yet it makes a huge difference.

I am so blessed by the acceptance, kindness, accommodations, and support I have received. I adore my city and I am so proud to call Austin home. We might be “weird,” but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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