Friday, June 29, 2012

A Measure of Success

I have rarely heard of a person with developmental disability described as having a successful life or as being well accomplished.  I have begun to ask myself why that is and I have decided that, in general, the wrong measurement is being used for those terms.  I believe this to be true for much of the population, but especially for those with developmental disabilities.  Income, social status, and prestige are the criteria that society largely uses to determine, not only one's  success, but their value as a human being.  I want  to challenge all of  us to consider another mark of excellence, especially since these traditional ones are proving to be erroneous in today's political and economic climate.  I'm not suggesting that the standard be lowered, but different criteria be used.

The persistence, patience, courage and attitude that it takes those of us with socially stigmatized disabilities to live our lives is worthy of respect and admiration.  The desire to live in full integration with our able-bodied peers has been recognized as a civil right by our government and still there are those who behave as if "handicap parking" and public transportation are favors granted, instead of laws that were fought for by those with disabilities and the able-bodied who support such equality.

There are those who gave there lives for these legal rights to become the law of  the land.  At a Boston underground subway stop there is a memorial to a woman who was legally blind amd stepped too close to the platform's edge  and was killed by an oncoming train.  That's why there are bumps at the edge of subway station platforms and sidewalk curb cuts.  She lived a successful  life and is one of many heroes for those with disabilities.

This is just one example.  I encourage others to share success stories that have touched their lives.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Can you use your hands?"

I am often asked this question by those who see me going everywhere independently driving my scooter.  It is an odd question to me but, perhaps not to the able-bodied.
I had a friend photograph me typing at  my computer desk.  Adaptive equipment wasn't even part of our vocabulary when I was in school and college.  I taught myself how to type on a manual typewriter that most young people have never seen.  By the time computers were available, I had taught myself a system using both hands.  On a good day, I type about  30 words per minute.  For me, my hands are more reliable than voice recognition programs and, of course, spell check is a plus for correcting "typos."
So here's the photo:
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

From Chapter 9: "Life on the Gridiron"

As the photo below indicates, football is, and has been my favorite sport for over 30 years.  I have been a diehard fan of the Penn State Nittany Lions since the late '70's and have rarely missed a game since 1996 when I began selling football programs prior to kickoff at home football games.  In chapter 9,  I revealed the well kept secret that I had the privilege of watching the closed football practices.  Trainers and graduate assistants alike would unlock the gate to let me inside.  One of the assistant coaches always teased me for "being late."   In chapter 9 I write,

 "As I watched the developing players prepare for their next game, I began to think of winter, the ice and snow, the cold temperatures and the isolation it brought to me as an “opponent.” If I was going to level the playing field I had to have a game plan, a strategy and a playbook.  I had to train myself both physically and mentally just like the young men I had been watching at practice."
Although I did not know Jerry Sandusky well, it is heartbreaking for me to learn of his ongoing sexual abuse of young innocent boys. I believe that a somewhat permissive environment had to exist for his behavior to go on for so many years. This will have some effect on how I view the climate of college football, especially at Penn State.
My sympathy and primary concern are for the victims, the courageous young men who publicly testified in detail about their experience. I am also grateful to the PA Attorney General's Office and all the law enforcement personnel who worked on this case. It is with a heavy heart that I write and publish this post. I don't do it lightly.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Life Transitions

One of the most important lessons I have learned in my life is that circumstances will definitely change.  At times for the better and, at other times, for the worse.  A miracle or a tragedy may be just a round the corner.  I, for one, am glad that life rarely gives us the slightest hint of what comes next.  I have grieved the death of so many loved ones that there have been times when I felt I just could not go  on.  Time would pass and  there would be something to celebrate; e.g.  a new baby, an amazing trip, falling in love, a young person to encourage, a donation from a stranger, a note thanking me for touching a life.  The list is endless and the joy continues to outweigh the sorrow.    That"s how i choose to tip the scales most days!

In this, my sixth decade of life, I am more aware than ever what a precious gift life is.  Several close friendships with women span the last 38 years of my life.  Just one  remains alive from my college days and we remain close.  Other friendships with men and women are of 15-25  years a dear to me, but Rita,  who lived on the same dorm floor as I, is especially precious.  We are just a year apart in  age and we have supported and loved each other through life's ups and downs for over three decades.  She is abled-bodied yet that has made little difference in our long enduring friendships.

In terms of my disability, the aging process as slowed me down somewhat, but not as much as one might think. Living with cerebral palsy always required that I live life in "slow motion" with a certain level of discomfort.  Being diagnosed with osteo arthritis six years ago and having hip replacement surgery has added more limitation but, after several years, I have made the necessary adjustments and continue doing most things with little assistance.  My life has never been "easy" whatever that means, however, it remains good.  Sometimes VERY GOOD!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Revealing My Bias

Those who know me, have often heard me  talk about one's biases and how  they can limit others and make themselves feel superior.  As someone born with cerebral palsy, I have done everything possible NOT to be identified with those who have intellectual limitations.  All  too often, the erroneous label "mentally retarded" would be part of the diagnoses when one's intellect was average or, as in my situation, very above average.
In our society, intelligence (based on IQ) makes a significant difference in opportunities that are seen as valuable.  I learned a lesson that made me realize this is not so in all situation.
Yesterday, as I watched the swimmers  in the Special Olympics swim competition, I found myself envying how they could move their bodies the entire length of the pool!
I wondered, "Why can't I do that?"   There are few things that 'd like to be able to do than to freely move about in the pool, but I am afraid of the water.  I bet those athletes didn't "think" about swimming or try to "figure out" how to swim.  Maybe they didn't even begin by calling it "swimming."  They just kept moving there bodies from side to side in the water until they wound up at the opposite end from where they began.  I learned so much from watching them.  Hope I can put it to use in my own life!