Q: Can I participate if people don’t think I’m disabled or if I’m not ‘disabled enough’?
Answer: The most important question is whether you identify as a person with a disability. There are all types of disabilities, invisible, visible, some that you are born with, some that you acquire later in life, some that are temporary, some that change over time.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines ‘disability’ as:
The term “disability” means, with respect to an individual
(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
(B) a record of such an impairment; or
(C) being regarded as having such an impairment (as described in paragraph (3)).
(2) Major Life Activities
(A) In general
For purposes of paragraph (1), major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
(B) Major bodily functions
For purposes of paragraph (1), a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
People do not have to fit under the ADA definition of disability to participate. We understand there are many disabilities that are unrecognized or not considered a ‘real’ disability. We prefer to include all participants based on the way they self-identify.
For more on the ADA’s definition of disability: http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm#12102