I was born with Spina Bifida Occulta. It is a hole in your spine. Most of the people who were born when I was – back in the dark ages- did not live too long after birth. The doctors were not very positive about my future. They didn’t seem to think that I even had one.
The doctors told my parents that I would not walk. I did. They told my parents that I could not run. I did. They told my parents and later me that I needed to protect myself at all cost. I was too fragile. But there was one orthopedic doctor who was very well known in Fort Worth who told me I could protect my body and live in fear that something was going to happen or I could forget it and move on with my life. So I moved on.
I had the honor of being the football manager in both Stripling Junior High and Arlington Heights High School. I learned to ride horses after being told that if I ever got throw off I could be paralyzed. I got thrown more times than I stayed in the saddle. I went on to Advertising and Marketing and to Publishing. And then something happened.
I had minor surgery and while in the hospital I got a full body infection. I laid in the bed for four and a half months trying to get my atrophied muscles to work. Some responded some did not. I had to start using a wheelchair. And this is what I want to debunk.
Whether a person is in a wheelchair, or walks with a limp, has hands that are turned the wrong way, arms that are missing, legs that are gone, either by an accident or from birth, their face may not be normal, their eyes may be off or without sight, their body is twisted in a way that is not what we call ‘normal’ – these people can do and be anything they choose. They don’t want your pity, they want to be treated the same as any other person.
I invite you to get a wheelchair and use it for one day and see how people treat you. Go on an interview in one, go shopping in one, go to church in one and see how differently you are treated. There are those that are trying to be so accommodating to you that you want to throw up. There are others who are offended. They are offended that you have a handicapped space at the front of a Wal-Mart, they are offended that you are trying to maneuver the same aisle they are in the department store, they give you “the look” that only a handicapped person can understand.
The thought that a person with a handicap can’t do what anyone else can is almost always wrong. It has gotten to a point that employers who are seeking a person to work for them must now place in their description of the job how long a person must be able to stand on their feet. In most cases I believe I can out sit those people standing. The employers have to describe in an employment bulletin how much a person must be able to lift to get the position. The law says that if you don’t put that in your description and you have someone show up who can do those things they must consider them or be sued. Let it be known that the vast majority of those in a wheelchair can lift twenty-five pounds and because they are in a wheelchair they can take it anywhere you want it to go.
There are limitations to what each of us can do. But don’t assume that a person can’t do something or doesn’t have the mental capacity to do practically anything. That is not true. I have always believed that one day I would be out of this wheelchair and walking again. Maybe, just maybe this article is the reason I am in one. It has allowed me to see a totally different prejudice that I have never seen before even though it was right in front of me!