Conversations around living with a disability often turn serious, academic and stale. But it doesn’t have to be that way — and two sisters are using their hilarious art to prove it.
A new comic series, called The Disabled Life, is using humor and sarcasm to chronicle what it’s like to live with a mobility-related disability. Created by Jessica and Lianna Oddi, who both use wheelchairs, the series documents what they call the “jerks and perks of living #TheDisabledLife.”
Jessica and Lianna say they’ve been jokesters their entire lives, but they only started using comedy to talk about their experiences a few years ago, through a shared Twitter account. Once they saw the disability community respond to their 140-character jokes, the sisters decided to use their talent as artists to expand The Disabled Life into a comic.
“It seemed the perfect way to merge the two things we love — drawing and sarcasm,” Jessica tells Mashable via email.
Their offbeat sense of humor is partly a coping mechanism, Jessica says, which they developed in response to living with undiagnosed illnesses. Jokes became a tool to take the edge off.
“Our disability taught us a lot about patience and acceptance — and also gave us a terribly sarcastic sense of humor.”
Jessica and Lianna were initially diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 1 at birth. The condition typically comes with a shortened life expectancy and severe respiratory issues, meaning the girls weren’t expected to live much past 2 years old.
But as they grew up to be toddlers and adolescents without problems breathing, it was obvious that they had been misdiagnosed. They’re still unsure of the exact condition they live with, and are currently undergoing genetic testing to figure it out.
“Growing up thinking you already surpassed your life expectancy, you really learn to embrace the unknown,” Jessica says. “Our parents raised us to live day by day, and enjoy the moment. Really, our disability taught us a lot about patience and acceptance — and also gave us a terribly sarcastic sense of humor.”
People closest to Jessica and Lianna never attempted to limit them due to their disabilities. Strangers, however, were a different story. Much of the comedic material the sisters use to create The Disabled Life comes from awkward stranger interactions, whether it’s offensive messages while using dating apps or invasions of personal space.
But they’re also inspired by the everyday obstacles and highly relatable annoyances wheelchair users face, like finding clothes that fit properly.
The Disabled Life gets to the core of these seemingly universal experiences. The sisters like the fact that the series depicts things people with disabilities are often frustrated with, but don’t necessarily verbalize.
Through creating this space of common experience, Jessica and Lianna hope they can facilitate a sense of community for people who experience disability in similar ways.
“To find out that people can completely relate to us and our stories is just amazing,” Jessica says. “Having a community that can relate and share stories is such an important thing. We’ve always been lucky to have each other to lean on, so being able to help give that to others is amazing.”
Though the comics are created specifically for those who use wheelchairs, the sisters recognize that people without mobility-related disabilities will also read their work. But the ultimate goal from people of all experiences is the same — a simple giggle.
“Honestly, we really hope [our audience] can get a good laugh out of our blog,” Jessica says. “And if people can learn from it or relate to it, then all the better.”