The hardest fact for me and others to accept after being diagnosed with an allergy.
According to FARE, “under the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, eating and breathing, and affect your heart and circulatory system, eating and your digestive system, breathing and your respiratory system, and more. All of these life activities are at risk for a person with a life-threatening food allergy.”
I think is was about a year of me dealing with my allergies before realizing that an allergy is classified as a physical disability and that I am in fact disabled. I’ve always considered myself to be able-bodied, but the fact is that I am not. An allergy truly can restrict your life – there are certain foods I cannot eat, certain places I cannot travel to, and certain environments that are not healthy for me to be in.
From an outside perspective, when talking to me, rarely do I mention the disability factor to having an allergy. I always keep it lighthearted, typically downplaying the severity of my food regimen. This is partially to the fact that I believe my food allergies should be handled by myself and should not be a burden to anyone else.
A downside to the way I frame my allergies and the pieces that I choose to tell others is the carefree nature others take. The amount of trust I need to have for others is insurmountable and when the joking subsides, I need to talk with someone and feel 100% confident. However, I struggle when people push the envelope a little too far… I can get so confused and hesitant!
I’ve had professors tell me not to apply for their study abroad trips because of my allergies. I’ve had people falsely say every food item at a party contains nuts just to joke. While I can take it all in stride, it’s important to note that I am usually the exception!
This topic is SO serious and this post is a reminder of that. Even if someone like me is downplaying or laughing off their allergies, it is important to still accommodate. And, it all depends on the attitude of the allergy sufferer! If they seem anxious, you may need to react differently than someone who is laughing and confident. I can admit to have fallen on both sides of the spectrum! (Read: Try not to be the ignorant professor or friend! It’s best to read the situation and feelings of the person with the allergies before commenting.)
PS – Lucky for me, I found a prof to take me on my next adventure! 🙂