Allison Lang, a 28 year old, Canada-based amputee, athlete, educator, and model, who is now also a body inclusivity advocate, didn’t always have the confidence she has now and certainly didn't imagine that she would one day be a role model and inspiration for others. In fact, it was quite the opposite for a very long time. After being born with the lower half of her leg missing, Allison suffered from severe trauma. While she is fortunate that she didn’t have additional health complications, this didn’t shield her from both physical and mental bullying.
As a result of her disability, every couple of years Allison had to undergo surgeries because her bone would grow through her skin. This was a tremendously difficult experience during childhood. Each time this happened she would have to go to school on crutches or in a wheelchair because she essentially had to relearn to walk. Kids would either push her over or call her names such as “peg leg” and “Barbie''. This had a huge impact on her self-confidence which ultimately resulted in Allison attempting to hide her legs. When she switched schools in junior high, Allison made the decision to not tell people about her leg and never wear shorts, despite how hot it might be. Speaking of her experience, Allison says, “In hindsight, I wish I would have shown myself more compassion and grace. Because of this, I now encourage others to love their bodies and remind people that every body should be celebrated because we are all unique and special. If the world had a cookie cutter format, we wouldn’t have the incredible diversity that we do.”
Sports were a huge part of Allison’s teenage years. Regardless of her disability, her parents never treated her like she wasn’t 100% capable and enrolled her in a variety of sports, ranging from soccer to snowboarding. At the age of 16, Allison was scouted by VolleyBall Canadian for a sitting volleyball team. Because of this opportunity, she ended up travelling all over the world and competing. She retired to pursue her education and become a teacher. Allison decided on teaching because she desired to normalize disabilities. “I chose to wear dresses and shorts to school in an attempt to acclimatize kids to people with disabilities. I want to normalize the reality of people having disabilities so that hopefully leads to a more accessible and accepting world.”
Allison didn’t begin embracing herself truly until her early twenties and a pivotal part of this was surrounding herself with life-minded people. Travelling was really the thing that helped her feel free sharing openly about her disabilities. In 2017, Allison went on a solo backpacking trip across Europe for 3 months. She had no one to rely on, and also it was during summer months so people would see her leg and ask questions. Allison met so many new people and found herself retelling her story over and over. It was the first time in her life that people were positively responsive to her. She also felt like she was educating people. The experience really allowed her self-confidence to grow. Traveling later in Central America, she witnessed kids with one leg playing soccer on crutches. This was one of the most impactful experiences of Allison’s life.
Now working in marketing and as a model, Allison is intentional about advocating for greater representation for people with disabilities and combating ableism. She is really pushing to be in commercials that don't focus solely on her disability. As a result of this, Allison is also now consulting with companies who are seeking to be more inclusive, especially as it pertains to the disabled community.
Allison never set out to be a leader or an advocate within the disability space. However, as she began sharing her story on social media, Allison began getting messages from parents and other kids with disabilities sharing how inspiring and impactful her story was for them. Allison now also goes into schools and talks to groups of girls, even implementing a girl’s self-love club in one school. Simply living in her truth is having a huge impact on the lives of others. Allison’s desire is to bring awareness to the disability community and inspire young children with disabilities. “I hope that no young girls or boys with disabilities grow up feeling like they need to hide it.”
Written by Chrissy King