Since its creation in 2008 Handihelp’s objective has been to share information, with individuals who have disabilities which will help them improve their daily lives, reduce frustrations and help them return to the activities that gave them quality of life.
Nothing is as important as the mind set the individual approaches their new life with. A catastrophic event generally limits normal body function in some way, but what it also does, which I think is much more serious, is take away skills that the individual has been using all his or her life. The person, after the onset of a disability, will eventually come to a fork in the road when they wish to perform a task and are unable to use the skill they used before. Which road will they choose? One road could, over time, led to as sense of helplessness while the other to feeling of empowerment. The factor, controlling the decision choosing which road, is the individual’s attitude.
Parisians reeling from the terrorist attacks in November 2015 came to a similar crossroad. Were they going to allow the terrorist attacks to change their lives and lifestyles, because of fear and anxiety, or were they going to return to being the City of Light? The decision was decided by their refusal to be intimidated into changing the lifestyle Paris is known for. The decision was decided by their attitude.
Handihelp strongly believes that a person, who is disabled, can reclaim much of what has been taken from them if they approach their new life with the proper attitude. Just as the Parisians decided the terrorist attacks would not destroy what they loved, an individual with a disability, as Christopher Reeves stated should refuse to allow a disability to determine how he or she will live their life. Being motivated by the proper attitude can lead to the development of new skills to replace many of those that have been taken.
Critical to the development of new skills is the understanding that there are many ways to solve a particular problem. Historically, cultures tend to develop a few accepted methods to solve a challenge. These ways are often referred to as norms from the root word normal. After a while people come to believe that those methods are the only ones that can be used. Nothing could be further from the truth! When talking to a group I often use the example of catching a fish, but in reality the same concept could be applied to many of the tasks performed daily. If ten people were selected from a homogenous audience in the U.S. and ask to catch a fish, chances are most would grab a fishing pole and head to nearby body of water. Suppose the same challenge was presented to a heterogeneous group of dependents from the United Nations. There is a strong probability we would see a variety of methods which could include, but not be limited to, the use of nets (both casting and stationary), weirs, noodling, spears, spear guns, bow and arrow and even the use of other animals, such as cormorants which are widely used to catch fish in Far East.
So, when initially dealing with a challenge placed on an individual with a disability, many most often try to solve the problem using the same skill they used before their impairment. When the old approach does not work and it is repeated for other problems it can create extreme frustration and an acute awareness of the limitations created by their disability. This experience repeated a number of times can lead an individual down the wrong road. Accepting failure as an end result, over time, can easily lead to the belief of inability. Imagine a baby; if they had a concept of failure, deciding after months of falling down it wasn’t worth continuing trying to get up. The result is obvious.
Conversely, you only need to browse through the pages of Handihelp to see a number of different ways people have come up with to solve a common problem. To understand the likelihood of a solution is critical to developing the new attitude. Developing a new skill most likely will not come easy. It will take time, effort, thought, failure, persistence, trial and error… you get the idea. However, imagine the results when you find a new way to solve a challenge.
As Robert Frost wrote in his poem “The Road Not Taken”
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.