When we think of “independence”, these are just some of the names that come to mind. This month we’ve been privileged to be on the receiving end of so many stories about independence, freedom, and what it means to live well with MS. What we know from these stories, now more than ever, is that the concept of “living independently” with MS is as complex and varied as the disease itself. People living with MS have strong voices, and those voices will not be ignored as we raise awareness of the many ways we need the world to change in order to accommodate people living with disabilities – not the other way around.
Today is World MS Day: a day to celebrate the work that has been done to improve quality of life for people living with MS, but also to recognize what still needs attention in the fight to end the disease. The Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) initiated the first World MS Day in 2009. The event now reaches hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year, raising awareness and instilling a sense of solidarity and community. This year, the theme of World MS Day is “independence”, and today we are recognizing that independence means many things to different people.
You shared a lot, and you shared it well. Key themes focused on having control over one’s own life despite social and physical barriers, whether that means accepting the help and accommodations you need, choosing to pursue a goal despite discouragement from others, or deciding for yourself how to manage your disease. Here’s what some of you had to say:
When an individual or group of people are excluded from participating in their communities because they don’t have access to space, income, or equipment, the burden is often placed on the person with the disability to overcome these obstacles in order to gain equal access – or, independence. Exclusion happens when environments and policies are not designed with accessibility in mind, and communities have a responsibility to remove barriers to accessibility.
You’ve taught us a lot this month about what independence can mean for people living with MS, and we are grateful for every story that has come our way. So today, please let us know: what does independence look like to you? Leave a comment here, mention us on Twitter, or tag us on Instagram.