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Thought and Opinion

Empowering Diversity: Believe in Your Disability Skills and Never Stop Improving

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A rich tapestry of abilities exists at the heart of the disability community, which is frequently obscured by societal biases. It’s time to rewrite the story and live by the adage, “Believe in Your Disability Skills, But Never Stop Improving.” This powerful concept encompasses the essence of community empowerment and growth.

Believing in your disability skills means recognizing the unique qualities that each person brings to the table. It’s a celebration of diversity, recognizing that abilities come in a variety of shapes and sizes. These abilities, whether perseverance, adaptation or a distinct perspective, are the foundations of self-empowerment.

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The journey, however, does not end with belief; it thrives on continuous improvement. Every member of the handicapped community can grow, learn, and improve their skills. This dedication to personal development catalyzes breaking down boundaries and transforming perceptions.

Embracing improvement entails cultivating a lifelong learning mentality. Look for educational opportunities, mentorship, and ways to improve your skills. By doing so, we not only validate our existing abilities but also lay the path for a future in which the disability community is recognized for its dynamic and ever-expanding skill set.

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Let us champion the cause in the spirit of unity and progress: Believe in Your Disability Skills, But Never Stop Improving. It’s a rallying cry for the disability community’s empowerment, diversity, and relentless pursuit of greatness.

By- Rowland Obiosah

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Thought and Opinion

Conjoined Twins Abby and Brittany Hensel Send ‘Message to the Haters’ After Controversial Marriage

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Conjoined Twins Abbey and Brittany

Conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel, famous for their unique life journey, have recently addressed a wave of online scrutiny following the revelation of Abby’s marriage to Josh Bowling, a nurse and US Army veteran. The twins, who have spent their lives navigating public interest and misconceptions, sent a clear message to their detractors on social media.

Marriage Revelation Shocks Fans

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Earlier this week, many were surprised to discover via public records that Abby Hensel had married Josh Bowling in 2021. This news reignited curiosity about the twins’ lives, especially regarding their relationships and daily dynamics.

Life as Conjoined Twins

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Abby and Brittany, from Minnesota, are dicephalus conjoined twins, meaning they share a bloodstream and all organs below the waist while retaining two hearts. Abby controls the right limbs, and Brittany controls the left. They sometimes eat separate meals but often share one due to their single bladder and excretion system, despite having two digestive systems and stomachs.

Future Plans and Family

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In a documentary titled Joined For Life, the twins’ mother discussed the possibility of them having children, stating that it “could work because those organs do work for them.” Brittany affirmed, “Yeah, we’re going to be moms,” indicating their desire and intention to start a family in the future.

Public Reaction and Online Backlash

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Photos from Abby and Josh’s wedding, shared on social media, led to a barrage of questions and comments about their lives. The twins responded with a TikTok video addressing the noise: “The internet is extra LOUD today.” They followed up with a message directed at their critics: “If you don’t like what I do, but watch everything I’m doing, you’re still a fan.”

Legal Questions and Clarifications

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The marriage sparked discussions on platforms like Reddit, with users questioning the legal intricacies. One user asked, “How does this unfold legally? Since they are two people married to one man, who is on the marriage certificate?” Another clarified, “One of the twins will be the legal spouse as far as the state is concerned. So it is theoretically possible that the other twin could someday decide to marry a different person. But given the way they have had to harmonize their entire lives, I imagine they would find it easier to stick to being married to just one person.”

A Message of Resilience

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Despite the renewed attention and criticism, Abby and Brittany continue to share their lives openly, inspiring many with their resilience and positivity. Their message to the haters underscores their confidence and commitment to living their lives authentically.

From Childhood Fame to Educators

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The Hensel twins first gained widespread attention at age six on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996. They went on to star in several documentaries and their own TLC reality show, becoming some of the most well-known conjoined twins in the world. Despite their fame, they pursued higher education and are now elementary school teachers in their hometown.

The anatomy of conjoined twins, Brittany and Abbey.
byu/Perunamies ininterestingasfuck

Abby and Brittany Hensel’s journey is a testament to their strength and unity. Their recent message to the haters serves as a reminder that, despite public scrutiny, they continue to live their lives with grace and determination, focusing on their personal and professional goals. As they move forward, they remain an inspiration to many, proving that love and resilience can overcome any challenge.

Featured Image Credit: TikTok / @‌abbyandbrittanyhensel / Facebook

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Love and Romance

Feeling Like an Outsider in Both Disabled and Queer Spaces

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Jasper Williams

As a Deaf and disabled asexual trans man, I navigate the complexities of double discrimination within both LGBT+ and disabled communities. This became starkly apparent several years ago when I attended an LGBT+ conference. I was one of only two wheelchair users among hundreds of delegates, and the organizers had assumed I could navigate steps unaided.

Sharing a single wheelchair space with another attendee highlighted the event’s lack of accessibility and created a bond between us. Yet, this experience was not unique. As someone who falls through the gaps of both communities, I often feel marginalized and uncomfortable.

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Navigating the event was nearly impossible. Workshop rooms were inaccessible due to heavy doors, and the only accessible toilet was designated as a gender-neutral facility, leading to long queues. Insensitive questions about my disability further added to my discomfort.

My primary disability, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, causes chronic fatigue, pain, and frequent joint dislocations. When people ask what’s wrong with me, it feels like an attack on my existence. This lack of understanding and inclusivity at the event made me question my participation in LGBT+ spaces.

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However, this incident fueled my determination to fight for change. I began advocating for disabled people on the asexual and aromantic spectrum (aspecs), striving to create inclusive and welcoming communities.

Ableism within LGBT+ groups extends beyond physical inaccessibility. I constantly have to justify my identity and existence. At an LGBT+ pub, a gay man expressed that he’d rather die than be in a wheelchair, disregarding my assertion that my wheelchair represents freedom and independence.

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Such attitudes persist in the dating scene, where many are unwilling to engage with disabled individuals. Meeting my partner Luke at a disabled conference was a turning point. Although initially welcoming, the community’s misgendering soon revealed that inclusivity was still lacking.

Misconceptions about asexuality further complicate my experiences. People often assume my disability causes my asexuality, reflecting outdated and harmful assumptions. Society’s view that asexuality is inherently wrong is pervasive.

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Despite these challenges, dating Luke, who is also disabled and aspec, has given us a strong connection and mutual understanding. Yet, navigating both communities often feels like choosing between identities: Deaf and disabled or LGBT+.

Online spaces are not exempt from this discrimination. I regularly face aphobia in disabled communities, being accused of contributing to the desexualization of disabled people simply by being open about my asexuality.

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Feeling excluded from both communities inspired me to start WheelieQueer, a business offering accessibility coaching, disability benefits assistance, and inclusion training. My goal is to empower Deaf and disabled people and encourage inclusivity.

Reflecting on my journey, I realized that tolerating prejudice makes me complicit. We need allies who are willing to educate themselves and normalize aspec identities within all communities.

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Disabled aspec people face double discrimination and deserve visibility and inclusion. Co-founding the #DisabledAspecsExist movement with Liam O’Dell and Charli Clement, I aim to build solidarity and support for our community. Until inclusivity is achieved, I will continue to speak up and amplify our voices.

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DWP Plans to Replace Regular Disability Payments with One-Off Grants Spark Major Backlash

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DWP PIP

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has ignited a storm of controversy with its latest proposal to overhaul the personal independence payment (PIP) system. The proposed changes, which would replace regular PIP with one-off grants for some claimants, have been met with fierce criticism from disability rights advocates and the broader public.

The government’s consultation aims to modernize the disability benefit system by scrapping the “one size fits all” approach of PIP, according to Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride. The plan suggests that assessments could be eliminated for certain conditions, with the focus shifting towards providing claimants with one-off grants or vouchers for essential services and equipment instead of regular cash payments.

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This radical shift is driven by the government’s concern over the “unsustainable rate” of the benefits bill, particularly due to the increasing number of mental health claims. However, critics argue that the changes would undermine the financial stability of disabled people, many of whom rely on PIP to manage their daily lives and additional costs associated with their disabilities.

James Taylor, from the disability equality charity Scope, expressed deep skepticism about the motivations behind the consultation, labeling it as a tactic to cut costs at the expense of vulnerable individuals. “Life costs a lot more for disabled people,” Taylor stated, emphasizing that removing a stable source of income would not address any societal issues but rather exacerbate them.

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Research by Scope suggests that disabled households require an extra £975 per month to maintain the same standard of living as non-disabled households, highlighting the crucial role of PIP in bridging this financial gap. The proposed reforms could lead to significant reductions in income for disabled individuals, with PIP accounting for about 21% of their total income and even more for those in the lowest income brackets.

The potential reform has also drawn criticism from Iain Porter of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who views it as an unjustified burden placed on those already facing significant challenges. He argues that the focus should instead be on addressing the root causes of ill health and poverty that affect millions in the UK.

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The proposed changes have been further complicated by the recent findings of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which accused the UK government of failing to address systemic violations of disabled people’s rights. This international scrutiny underscores the need for reforms that genuinely support disabled individuals rather than pushing them further into hardship.

Critics are calling for a benefits system that is compassionate, tailored, and supportive, rather than punitive and cost-cutting. As the government moves forward with its consultation, the outcome will significantly impact the lives of millions of disabled persons across the UK, making it a critical issue of fairness and social justice in the lead-up to the general election.

As debates and discussions continue, it is clear that any changes to the PIP system must be handled with utmost care to avoid unintended consequences that could leave many of the most vulnerable in society at greater risk of poverty and exclusion.

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