Growing Up InV15able
Let me introduce myself, my name is Letisha Wexstten and I am the founder and CEO of visible. I was born without arms and one leg shorter than the other. I learned how to do everything with my feet as if life hadn’t given me enough challenges to deal with I also had to overcome the challenges of ableism.
When people saw me they had reactions of pity. They couldn’t imagine living their life without arms and made the assumption that I would not be able to do the things that they do. I would never be as smart as the other kids I would always have to face challenges, I wouldn’t be able to live a normal life, get married, have kids be successful. I wouldn’t amount to anything.
Every day became an uphill battle to prove to everyone what was possible. My personality, ambition, and motivation to become the best person that I could ever be is the reason why I am as successful as I am now. One bachelor’s degree, a house, two specially modified cars, a husband, three dogs, a career, and the opportunity to run my own business later I have successfully prove them all wrong.
The problem wasn’t whether or not I was going to be able to achieve all of these things and be successful in life, the problem was people’s perspective of what it means to have a disability. Their preconceived misconceptions of life with challenges equaled A life of misery.
My mother never gave me the opportunity to feel sorry for myself. She always told me that I am able to do anything that anyone else can do, I just have to do them differently. She taught me that Life is filled with challenges whether you have a disability or not, it’s how you overcome these challenges that make you the confident successful person that you are.
Growing up I was never treated any differently than my other 4 siblings who; let’s say, had fewer challenges than I did. I had my chores just like anyone else. I learned independent living tasks such as bathing and getting dressed. In our house the word disability didn’t exist, I was like anyone else in my family. Outside of the house was a different story. I was constantly being told, “no, you can’t do that, you have a disability.”
I never realized how much people stared at me until I grew older. They’ve never seen a girl without arms eating at the table with her feet it must have been a sight to see. Yet at the same time, I could tell that they were also trying to ignore me. Maybe because it’s impolite to stare, or perhaps the idea of seeing someone with a disability was foreign to them. (Which is weird because 15% of the world population has a disability which amounts to 1 in 5) surely they would have seen someone else eating chicken nuggets with their toes right?
The truth is people with disabilities have fewer opportunities than able-bodied people. Because Having a disability is considered taboo. Most of us don’t make it to college the lost souls that are a drain on society not because people with disabilities are incapable but because of society’s restraints on what they think is possible.