Because I Am Disabled

Celebrating Disability Pride Month. Graphic of individuals with different disabilities and assistive devicesby Rebecca Twitchell

Sometimes the worst thing about having a disability is that people meet it before they meet you. Ad in a newspaper with an image of someone with a prosthetic hand shaking another hand

Easterseals ad from 1990.

When I was young, I saved this Easterseals ad [shown left] from a magazine, and I have kept it ever since. It sums up exactly how I felt when I was a child and how I feel now. I have actually never considered my hand a disability because I have not let having only two fingers on my hand stand in the way of doing something I really wanted to do … but it has definitely come with its share of insecurities. 

Since I was young, I hid my hand because I have always wanted people to meet me, before it. It was easier to feel liked right away than feeling like I was different, pitied, made fun of, or judged. For most of my life, I felt ugly. And the self-deprecation was very real. I put myself down every single day. While I was sad when the kids teased me, sometimes I didn’t think they were wrong for doing it. 

As I grew older, my insecurities started to become a major obstacle. I was consumed with anxiety that someone would see my hand. It was a 24/7 worry. I wore baggy, long sleeved shirts and sweatshirts all the time, even at the beach, on the volleyball court and while bartending in college. I was good at hiding it. Awesome at it, in fact. When I WOULD let people know of my secret, they would always respond with “I had no idea! And who cares?!” I understood the sentiment. But I cared. And I always will. 

I believed that no one would ever fall in love with me. That I would be on my own. Why would anyone willingly date someone who looked like me?  

Hiding my hand eventually caught up to me in my profession as well, and held me back from the person I did not even know I could be. I would stay quiet at meetings. I never used my voice because I didn’t want people to look at me. I would never volunteer to present in front of a group. I would even position my desk/computer at an angle so that I would not be surprised by anyone coming into my office — because they might see it.    

And yet, when I reflected back to how I actually lived my life over all those years, despite hiding my hand all the time, I began to realize that I never actually let it stop me from doing the things that I really wanted to do.  From volleyball to bartending, I started to see themes of independence, strength and overcoming obstacles in the way of my perceived impossible. I started to shift my way of thinking about my hand to one of more positivity. And that shift allowed my mind to become flooded with very different thoughts, ideas, and opportunities for personal growth. Because I Am Disabled

It wasn’t until I realized and embraced the fact that I actually had a gift — something unique that not everyone had —  and a story to share to support people with their own insecurities that I start to unlock my true self. I transitioned from a place of hiding to a place of sharing. I began using my voice — a voice which was actually being welcomed by those in the room.  

People were resonating with my message. Whether they had a disability or not, people felt heard. It was refreshing to them to know that they were not alone in what they were going through and what they were feeling. That there are others out there who are stuck in a rut of insecurity.   

And these were professionals. CEOs. Presidents. Corporate teams.  

It was another one of those moments when I was overcoming an obstacle in the way of moving forward personally, and more validation of the themes I saw in how I was living my life. It was a risk to lead with vulnerability, especially 18 years ago when it was not deemed professional to share personal stories, but I started to realize … this is what I am supposed to be doing.  

We are people before we are professionals. There is no way around that.  

I became more and more fierce with acceptance and nonjudgement with every group I facilitated and every individual I met. I intentionally worked on my listening skills. On listening to understand. On being present. On not working on a solution in my head during a discussion, but rather allowing my curiosity and care lead me with a follow up question so I could understand even more. 

Rebecca smiling on leaning on a sign that says HOPE

Rebecca Twitchell, Founder & President of half full, LLC.

Today, we receive daily calls and emails from leaders and teams trying to figure out their workplace culture as they navigate what it’s like being back together after COVID restrictions. It is more important than ever for leaders to create an environment where employees feel heard, valued and respected. 

Every single one of us has something going on. And we will never truly understand what someone is going through. But we can begin with acceptance. With not judging. With listening to understand. With celebrating what makes someone unique and not comparing.  

I am incredibly proud of the career and business I have grown. And if given the chance, I would never change how I look. I am here for a reason. I have Symbrachydactyly Syndrome for a reason. I am a facilitator who helps individuals and teams move forward through their values, their culture and by being the best they can be as individuals and as a team. I am a reminder about acceptance of one another.  

Because I Am disabled, I am in love with my life.  (And my husband – I guess someone could fall in love with me after all!) 

About the author: 

Passionate about helping teams and individuals move forward, Rebecca Twitchell aspires to live each day as optimistically and realistically as possible. Her story is the backbone behind why half full, llc exists. Go ahead and shake her hand … and ask for the left one.  

A graduate of the Maxwell School of Citizenship at Syracuse University, Twitchell co-founded half full, llc in 2005 – a unique “do well, do good” business which provides custom team building, retreats, and workplace culture-driven experiences to teams and individuals looking to move forward with intention. “half” is about being a for profit business and the “full” is about giving back.  

After acquiring half full, llc from her partners in 2009, Twitchell enhanced the mission of the company to strengthen its commitment to corporate social responsibility. half full, llc offers personal and professional development retreats to teenagers in the Greater Providence, RI area at no cost.  

She and her team are known for their energetic and engaging facilitation style, problem-solving techniques, and keen ability to adapt and plow through any issues that may affect any clients locally, throughout the U.S., and globally (Africa being a favorite). Best for RI award recipient for its do well, do good business model, winner of the Small Business Association’s 2020 Microenterprise of the Year in RI and the entire Northeast, a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and the PI II Leadership Rhode Island class, she attributes these accomplishments to her team’s dedication to the vision, mission, and values of half full, llc — and her own personal commitment to always be listening and learning. 


Comments may not reflect Easterseals' policies or positions.

Comments are closed.