Hello! My name is Courtney Smith, I use she/her pronouns, and I'm 21 years old. I have a physical disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy that limits me to use of a wheelchair. I call Southern California and Seattle my home.

For the questions—

Question 1: If you had the opportunity to be nondisabled, would you take it? 

My answer: No. I have been disabled my whole life. It is part of me and who I am as a person. I have gotten countless opportunities to make the lives of those around me better through being able to share my life experiences. As a young child I was unable to play on playgrounds due to their lack of accessibility. Because of this I spent 10 years getting a public park built that can accommodate children and adults of all abilities. Disabled and non-disabled children have the ability to play together and learn to be accepting of each other from a very young age at an inclusive playground. Without my disability and frustrations this park would not exist, and countless children would not have a place to play.

All this being said there are times that I do get frustrated and think that things would be better if I was “normal.” But, even if I could walk and did not have a disability I would still get frustrated, so it is just a natural part of life. I just take these times of frustration to feel these emotions and then channel them into proving to the world that I can do anything I set my mind to.


Question 2: What is the worst experience of ableism you’ve dealt with?

My answer: It can be surprising the amount of ableism that I do encounter on a daily basis. From something as small as a person making a point of moving out of my way on a sidewalk to something as insulting as being given a kid menu. I have often encountered individuals who have chosen to ask the people I am with questions that should be directed at me because they assume that because I am in a wheelchair I do not have the power of speech. 

The worst experience I have ever had with ableism is generally not being able to participate with my peers socially. Growing up all sleepovers had to be held at my home because it was the only accessible home. Every summer my friends had bonfires on the beach that I was never invited to because I cannot navigate sand. If I want to spend time with friends, it has to be in a public place or at my house because their houses are not accessible. This ableism is not even the cause of singular people but of the system of thinking as a whole in our society.

Question 3: If there was one thing you could get every nondisabled person to understand, what would it be?

My answer: I am not any different from you. Everyone has their own challenges--mine just happen to be visible to the world around me. It can be very hurtful to be stared at so just talk to me like you would anyone else and we can get around the disability together.