When I was growing up, I never heard of disability pride. Disability was not something to be celebrated, but something to be fixed or hidden away. Thankfully, I had amazing parents who never let me believe that just because I had a disability, I was any less capable than everyone else. Even with their support, however, I felt alone; I didn’t have anyone like me to look up too and I often hated my disability.
Fortunately, I eventually learned to embrace my disability; even better, society is beginning to change. Children today have a lot of positive role models when it comes to living life with a disability. People like Josh Blue, who used his disability to carve his own niche in stand-up comedy; or Abbey Curran, who challenged conventional ideals of beauty by being the first woman with CP to compete in and place in the Miss USA pageant. They are showing people with disabilities, and the world, that living with a disability is no longer something to be ashamed of, but something to be embraced and celebrated. But it isn’t just individuals who are changing society’s outlook on disabilities; companies like 3eLove are also making a huge impact.
3eLove was started in 2007 by Chicago natives, Annie and Stevie Hopkins, as a way of promoting their unique symbol of acceptance. The wheelchair heart logo, as well as their social model of disability, encourages others to embrace diversity, educate society, and empower one another to love life. 3eLove may have started as a small Chicago clothing company, but it is now and international movement.
I discovered 3eLove a few years ago when I saw a wheelchair heart car decal on the mini-van driving in front of me. I thought it was neat and made a mental note to try to find out more about them. Later, when I googled “wheelchair heart,” I found 3eLove’s website pretty quickly and discovered that it was more than just bumper stickers. They had everything, from key chains and water bottles to tank tops and backpacks. The logo alone had me wanting to buy right away, but the more I read about the mission behind the logo, I knew it was something I had to be a part of.
I started with a Proud© shirt for myself, then I bought one for my husband so that we could wear them in our one year anniversary photos. Then I bought one for each of my close friends and family for Christmas. Now, I have a whole proud army. This year, they even came out with dog collars so my dog could join the ranks.
I love 3eLove. It makes me so happy when I go on their Facebook page and I see a 5 or 6 year old smiling in their wheelchair sporting their 3eLove gear. I wish that kid could have been me; but I am glad, at least, that future generations have the opportunity to grow up embracing their disabilities, proud of whom they are and loving life.