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One of the things I was told over and over again the first time I was denied Social Security was that I was projecting an image that was working against me if I wanted to get SSI. I am a bit of a germaphobe and I adore personal cleanliness, so my clothes are usually neat (and as I discussed before, I like fashion and have a personal sense of style) and laundered, my hair is brushed, the usual. I also, after years of dealing with scoliosis, go out of my way to stand tall, and I speak with a rather loud, though uneven, voice.

My friends who are disabled told me that in order to get SSI, they had to make themselves look weak, incompetent, and utterly pathetic. If they showed so much as the slightest ability to do simple tasks, they’re denied. This left me dumbfounded, and I decided that I wasn’t going to apply for SSI again (I later regretted that when I was living unemployed and miserable in a situation where I was essentially trapped by a lack of money) because my dignity wouldn’t allow me to pretend to be the government’s version of a deserving disabled person. My pride is going to be the end of me some day, I swear.

But why, exactly, is this criteria so narrow, and why does it only seem to be tailored to those who will need SSI for the remainder of their lives? Why not also consider the great benefits that could come about from giving SSI assistance to disabled people who have their mixture of abilities and barriers, so that they can be better enabled to one day attain total independence, or as much as they can? Why is it considered sound policy to act as though disability has to be something absolutely incapacitating in order for you to be worthy of any help? Why must disabled people be made to choose between being humiliated and being left up the creek without a paddle?

I don’t know how different Canada’s system is yet, but I am hoping it is less of a mess than the U.S one, and realizes that disability doesn’t mean only absolute helplessness. Disability is diverse, and all disabled people deserve recognition and assistance if they desire the latter.