My common is unique

Anna banna

Every second month Anna shares her musings, personal insights, and observations of our diverse lives.

I live in a society where having a significant or obvious physicuniqueworkal, sensory or intellectual disability and paid employment is something that is often seen as admirable or brave. However, for me, it is just what I do.

Being told that I have inspired people because I have a job (or two) is surprising. It’s surprising because I haven’t set out to inspire anyone. I’m simply making my way in this life.

New Zealand’s employment rates are reasonable, based on these statistics from Stats NZ


In New Zealand one in four people identify as living with a disability. According to the 2013 Disability Survey, only “half of all disabled adults were in the labour force (either employed, or unemployed and looking for work) compared with three-quarters of non-disabled adults.”


I respect that not everyone can work. In fact, generally speaking, I can only manage 35 hours each week. I wonder, just because I do work, how that is inspiring or unique.  It seems rather common actually, when you look at the facts and figures.


As part of one of my roles I am regularly invited to speak at large and small university lectures. Often afterwards students – and sometimes staff – will comment that I am so brave (they could never say it in front of others).


Ironically, I used to say the same thing to other people when I was younger.


So this got me thinking that, perhaps this is less about perceived ability and more about each individual’s perspective on what they think is achievable for them. In addition, if they had a disability, they perceive that it would be so significantly challenging, that taking on work as well would be ‘inspiring’.


Therefore, your perspective is valid, yet not always an accurate theory of reality. Just as my perspective that you living without a disability would surely mean you have no limitations is, of course, not accurate, either!


My common is your unique, and your common is my unique! How different are we? And yet we’re so alike!

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