Dynamic Disabilities

Over the years, mainstream culture has led us to believe that all disabilities are static and visible: that symptoms are always present. However, many disabled people don’t experience this reality. Disabilities caused by chronic illness are often anything but visible or static; they are dynamic.  Dynamic disability is a relatively new concept that means that a disability oscillates in severity, where all or one of the symptoms of a chronic illness worsen for a period of time, whether it’s for a matter of days, weeks, or months. When someone identifies as being dynamically disabled, it means that they are able to perform activities or complete a task one day, but may not be able to the next moment or day, etc. Individuals with a dynamic disability sometimes feel like it isn’t fair to self-identify as disabled precisely because their condition can fluctuate so much. This stems from society and how they visualize a disability. This messaging isolates chronically ill people and encourages them to feign wellness publicly. As a result, we are left in further pain and with our disabilities exacerbated.

 The quality of one’s life and illness doesn’t change just because we look “healthier” that day or because we decided to put effort into our appearance. The only thing that changes is how we choose to show up, which can fluctuate depending on our energy levels or level of frustration. We are allowed to choose where we put in the effort or where we expend our energy. No matter how we look, we are still ill, and we are still struggling. Life with a dynamic disability is an altered life: it is a life that needs understanding and care from ourselves and, most pertinently, the world around us. Individuals with a dynamic disability want to be treated with respect, just like the general population or individuals with a visible disability. Unfortunately, individuals with a dynamic disability often experience a lot of gatekeeping and questioning.

We are not required and should not be expected to explain our disability or justify our use of an accommodation, such as accessible parking. Words and actions are powerful. They can impact people’s daily lives, create beliefs, influence social policy, and influence feelings and decisions. Increasing awareness and changing the views of mainstream culture are crucial. It is essential that we educate individuals on the dynamic nature of many disabilities and incite a change.