Disabled Is Not A Bad Word: Disability Advocate Allison Lang Shares Her Story

Allison Lang © @allisonelang

By Allie Murray

For Canadian-born Allison Lang, life as a below-knee amputee was nothing outside the norm. Born missing the lower half of her left leg, Lang lived her life like any other—until she began school and faced extreme bullying as a child, causing her to feel like an outsider in her own body.

“I think I hid my disability for a full decade,” Lang shared. “I refused to wear shorts in the hot summer months in fear someone would see my leg. I wasn’t living authentically as myself, it was holding me back from living life to its fullest. I was in complete denial that I was an amputee, and even eliminated the word disabled from my vocabulary—it made me feel like a victim.”

As Lang grew older, she discovered a passion for travel, which was sparked after she joined Team Canada’s Sitting Volleyball Team. Travelling with the team allowed her to meet other women with disabilities and showed her that travel was something she could do with ease.

allison lang
© @allisonelang

Today, she has travelled to 31 countries—and even spent three months backpacking solo.

While Lang never set out to become a role model for other disabled people, she has created a following online for those with disabilities like herself, and built up a community where they can uplift and support each other.

“I hope to be that role model for a younger girl or boy that is struggling to accept their body, disabled or not,” she explained. “To be someone in campaigns and on social media embracing the body I had instead of wishing they looked like someone else. I truly believe that every body should be celebrated, we’re all uniquely beautiful.”

Her online presence led to her working as a model—recently having been one of the faces of Joe Fresh’s activewear line.

The Joe Fresh campaign allowed Lang to share her authentic self with the world, showing other disabled people that they are not alone.

“Representation of diversity is crucial; in our everyday lives we are surrounded by all sorts of people, so why not relate that to advertisements and campaigns?” Lang posed.

Sharing her experiences on how important representation is to her, Lang shared an anecdote of what working with Joe Fresh looked like for her.

“When I showed up to the studio to model for Joe Fresh, I brought a bag of legs with me,” she laughed. “I knew I was modelling activewear so naturally I packed my running leg, because that’s what I use when I’m active. They listened to me, encouraged me to wear whichever leg I felt I would wear with the clothing I was modelling. That’s authentic. That’s depicting a true image of how my body works and what devices I use.”

When it comes to following your passion, Lang says not to limit yourself: “Do not let your disability hold you back from seeing the world. I almost let it hold me back and now I can’t imagine my life without travel.”

She shares that if you’re looking to travel with a disability, do research and read blogs from disabled travellers themselves, talk to your doctor or your prosthetist for recommendations, travel with someone you’re comfortable with, and make sure you have the accommodations and accessibility you need.

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