Allison E. Lang
Allison E. Lang is an athlete, a solo traveler (she’s backpacked 29 countries with a goal of hitting 30 before she turns 30), an educator, and an advocate for body inclusivity. Born missing the lower half of her left leg, Allison still participates in soccer, snowboarding, and she’s a member of Team Canada’s Sitting Volleyball Team.
SE: What is a common misconception about you or the things you can do?
Allison Lang: A common misconception about being a leg amputee is that we can’t do a lot of physical activities because we’re assumed to have difficulty walking and/or keeping up. In reality, I can do anything an able-bodied person can do (and sometimes even better). I’ve hiked active volcanoes in Nicaragua, surfed waves in Bali, and sailed from Panama to Colombia. I enjoy proving to people that I can, especially when they make the accusation that I can’t. One of my favorite things is refusing a seat someone offers me on the train when I’m headed to work, I don’t need it — I like standing just like anyone else.
I think more recently, I’ve become more aware of how uncomfortable people are asking about my disability, particularly when they find out I’ve endured a lot of bullying and alienation because of it. I’d prefer to be asked questions and have uncomfortable conversations with people, I believe that’s when beautiful things evolve and change happens.
SE: Were you always interested in sports?
AL: Absolutely! I have my parents to thank for that. When I was born missing my leg they promised each other to raise me as though nothing was different about me, so they put me into swimming lessons as a baby, signed me up for soccer when picking flowers on the field was the main focus, and encouraged me to try skiing on one ski with outriggers (an adaptive sport), which then led me to start snowboarding. My love for sports and my competitive nature guided me to try out for Team Canada’s Women’s Sitting Volleyball team at the age of 16 and I am fortunate to have competed internationally all across the United States, England, and Brazil while representing Canada!
SE: Why is fitness important to you?
AL: Fitness has always been important to me. Not only to be strong but to feel strong. I love to move my body and discover new ways to challenge it. Although, I need to highlight that I used to be obsessed with the number on the scale, but now I focus on how it aids with my mental health.
SE: What makes you feel the most confident in your body?
AL: Dancing in my underwear, hands down. I used to be insecure when I would see my body in the mirror but now I make a habit of spending at least 30 seconds a day shaking my booty to a great pump-up song while looking in the mirror. The more familiar I am with how my body moves, the more confident I’ll feel about it clothed in front of others!
SE: I read an article where it talked about some of the bullying you endured as a kid. How did you learn to be confident and comfortable in your skin despite that treatment?
AL: I was bullied, both mentally and physically, in elementary for having a prosthetic leg. This dehumanization transmitted those negative thoughts and feelings that others had about me onto myself. I actually had to switch schools because the bullying got so bad. When I started at my new school it was like a fresh start for me and I made the decision to hide my leg from others to protect myself. Even on hot days in the summer months, I would wear jeans or tights under my capri-length pants so my legs would look the same color. [In my early 20s] I made the dedication to work on my confidence once I realized that I have one life to live and that life is for me, so would I rather live it and enjoy it and spend my time worrying about the thoughts of others.
I haven’t shared this story with anyone yet but now seems like a fighting time. I used to obsessively get my prosthetic legs built and designed to look as close to my real leg as possible. I never wanted people to be able to notice, for the most part, it looked like I was wearing a knee brace from a distance. In July 2020, my roommate and I tested positive for COVID and had to follow each other’s isolation which equaled a whole month in quarantine. July is Disability Pride Month and during my time locked up inside I spent my time reading about disability, diversity, and inclusion. This inspired me to take a knife to my prosthetic leg to remove the foam and skin to expose the post of my prosthetic to give it the unfinished look. I feel once I fully embraced my biggest insecurity by bringing attention to it, it made me accept it even more. In all honesty, I feel like a total unique badass now.
SE: What is your motto?
AL: I like to say that your obstacle is your opportunity. My obstacle being my disability gives me the opportunity to educate others about accessibility and inclusivity. I want to thank The War Amps CHAMP Program of Canada, a non-profit, for raising money to help fund prosthetic limbs for child amputees. Without them, I would not have been able to try out and participate in so many different sports or adventures throughout my life.