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Archive for January, 2013

Individuality and Disability

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Individuality and Disability

Think back to the last time you saw a disabled person. What was her disability? Something stood out in your mind. The wheelchair, her long, white cane, the special crutches she used to walk.

Now, what else do you remember about her? Her hair color? The clothes she wore? Surely there’s something about the person you remember. Or did you just see a “disabled” person?

Then again, maybe not. Too often we retain something to remember a person by, but not necessarily a physical characteristic about them. And while it’s true, we do this for those not disabled — the red cap he wore. The way his ski jacket made him look massive. The owlish-look her glasses gave her.

So, I’ll bring up the question — Does a disability characterize an individual? Should someone be identified by his disability? If you identify a person by his disability, you catalog, pigeon-hole, diminish him. When you see a disability as a characteristic of who that person is, you give him the freedom to be himself… and more.

Being a physically challenged person myself, my disability limits me, but does not characterize me. My blindness is a characteristic of who I am, but it’s not all I am. Believe me, there’s a difference. Thinking of a disability as someone’s characteristic, and not who or what that person is, may allow you to see someone in a clearer light. To get to know a person, not a disabled person.

A woman I used to hang around with once said, “God has seen fit to let everyone see my disability. I often wish I could see everyone else’s.” Everyone has a disability; some are just easier to see than others. No one is perfect. Those who think they are have a bigger problem than they think.

Be proud of who you are — your strengths, your talents, your accomplishments. And learn from your weaknesses — your bad habits, your procrastinations, your flaws. Every coin has two sides. Keep yours spinning and they won’t be able to pin you down.