Senior Spotlight: Sami Binning

Video by Grace Johnson

Sami Binning is a senior at Liberty North who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta  This is her perspective about her disease, and how she handles the inevitable questions that come with it:

 “What’s wrong with you?” This question is one I am very familiar with. It’s usually asked unprompted and typically by a child, and always awkward for both parties. But I’ve learned that this question, however rude as it might seem, is necessary for educating about and breaking the stigma of disability.

Over the years, I’ve heard “What’s wrong with you?” and other similar questions in countless ways; I know when someone has malicious intent with their inquiry. Most young children do not. They just don’t possess the social experience of other words to ask their question. Most kids aren’t exposed to disability in their everyday lives, and for that reason, I can understand them not knowing how to ask the question less abrasively. They’re just curious. And I can understand why. My power chair is unconventional, and to many, it looks like a car or motorcycle. It makes a noise when I drive and the console lights up. If I was a child I would be fascinated with it, too. 

Even though I rationalize and understand why people ask me what’s wrong with me, over time it gets old and annoying. At times it can even feel dehumanizing. I’ve been tempted to snap back or ignore it, but I don’t. Talking about disability is seen as taboo in society. We’re supposed to not acknowledge it and pretend it doesn’t exist, and I don’t know why. My disability is a huge part of my life. I have to live with it for the rest of my life, so why shouldn’t I talk about it? So when people ask me questions about me or my disability, I always answer them because this might be their only opportunity to learn. Educating kids about disability prevents them from making assumptions about people with disabilities that are harmful. Many people assume that all people in wheelchairs are paralyzed and cannot walk, but the majority of wheelchair users only use a wheelchair part-time. People also assume that if you are physically disabled that you must also be mentally disabled. This assumption is made about me all the time and is one I actively try to fight. By answering kids’ questions, I can stop those assumptions from being made, and hopefully, encourage them to see disabled people as genuine people and not as objects or test subjects. 

I don’t like that my existence is a learning opportunity for everyone else, but the more awareness and education we can spread about disability, the more accepting and understanding we will be about disabled issues.

Want to hear more about Sami’s injuries? Check out Grace and Sami’s podcast, 2 Broke(n) Girls. where they discuss funny injury stories.

Fast Facts about Osteogenesis Imprefecta from Mrs. Black, Bio II Teacher