I looked at my nurse and asked her if she just heard what I heard? She said she did. It usually takes me anywhere from 2 to 2 1/2 hours from the time my nurse arrives until I’m in my wheelchair ready for the day. We often have the television on and watch Good Morning America, Dr. Oz and then The Doctors. Besides being quite entertaining the programs are also rather informative. The quote I had just heard was from a commercial for a local business which sells wood burning stoves, fireplace inserts, spas and pools. The statement was included in their advertisement for a line of stoves with the brand name Quadra-Fire. Having quadriplegia myself, I am well aware that “a quad” is often used to refer to those of us with this disability. At first I made some jokes but, as the day wore on, the statement really started to bother me. How could anyone be so insensitive? The more I thought about it, I began to realize that many people are oblivious to the special needs community. Rather than call the store and complain, it seemed to me, that it is much more important to EDUCATE society.
When I go out in public I consider myself a “Special Needs Ambassador”. I try to act that way all the time. Each of us is a role model for “our members” whether we want to be or not. The entire time we spend among the public we are being evaluated by others whether we want to be or not. If my premise is correct, then we must constantly project what we would like others to perceive about all our brothers and sisters. I believe my actions and behaviors should reflect the problems and frustrations that are part of living with a disability, as well as, how to cope with such challenges. I have no desire to be felt sorry for or pitied I just want people to see and understand the reality of having a disability.
Last week my wife and I went out to lunch. The restaurant was quite crowded and probably it would have been easier to go somewhere else, but then why should we. I navigated through the narrow aisles which required some people to move a little and rolled up to an empty table. I am a big man and have yet to find a restaurant where my knees will fit under a table. I have a tray which fastens to my chair but causes me to stick out into the aisle a little more. My wife brings my own utensils, drinking cup and shirt protector (aka bib). When my meal came she had to help me get the burger in my hand. As I eat I will inevitably begin to lose control of a sandwich and some of it will fall on my chest. The last portion must be eaten out of my hand because I cannot let go of it. Likewise, when my leg bag needs to be emptied we do it discreetly but do not isolate ourselves from others. Hopefully, some people will begin to realize the implications for a person with a disability.
Applying a few of the 10 Simple Principles found on ThisAbled website to this idea
Believe that you as a person with a disability are equal in value to the people around you.
*Believe that you have something society can benefit from.
*Understand that your disability makes you unique not different.
Do not let others define your goals or measure your success.
*Educate the young
I would like to modify the last principle above to include EDUCATE the rest of society through our actions and behavior. When I was in the rehabilitation hospital I heard people referring to non disabled individuals as TABS (Temporarily Abled Bodied). We can help TABS understand that life is not as safe as many believe but involves risk and at best is unpredictable. Hopefully, able bodied individuals will begin to realize that they or someone they know could join our group at any time.