This past week, the world mourned the loss of Stephen Hawking.
The brilliant man and physicist has forever changed the way we view the cosmos and his impact on our society can’t be denied.
Along with his incredible intellect, Hawking is also known for his fight with ALS.
His computerized voice is well known throughout the science and pop culture world, so his death brought sentiments from around the world.
But all the thoughts and prayers given to Hawking and is family was met with some controversy.
For example, actor Gal Gadot offered her sympathies and said Hawking is “now free of his physical constraints.”
While I’m sure Gadot meant no ill will to Hawking, her comment spurred an online debate about ableism against people with disabilities.
There are many who believe that because of a person’s disability, death brings a welcome release to any physical limitations. And if someone has a disability, he or she doesn’t experience true freedom.
As a person with a disability, I can safely say that this sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth.
Not once have I ever thought of death as an escape from my disability. It’s not something I will ever welcome just because I’m in a wheelchair.
Our lives aren't any less fulfilling because of our physical or medical challenges. Success while living life with a disability shouldn't have to come with an asterisk. For example, he has accomplished so much (*despite being in a wheelchair.)
Disabilities may be something we have, but they don't define who we are.
I know, and I'm sure everyone else knows, that Gadot didn't mean anything by her tweet. But it is important to recognize ableism and make the effort to enact change. Everyday, I'm reminded of my "otherness" because of my disability, and our society's ableism can be more restrictive than any physical limitation.
Those with disabilities do not wish for death to be free from challenges. We want to experience life just like our able-bodied counterparts and any belief to the contrary is misinformed.
Freedom is not death for those with disabilities. Freedom is accessibility. Freedom is accommodation. Freedom is the acceptance from those who can look past limitations.