To be honest, it is hard for me to be honest. I am a glass-half-full kind a guy. I like to tell people what they want to hear.
Life goes easier that way, people are happier.
In my college days, I had a weekly column in the Oregon State University "Daily Barometer" titled 'Witticisms' - imagine that! My thought was that if I could get people to smile, or feel anything, I could get them to think.
One time, it was disability awareness week. I felt a burden to promote the awareness. I was up all night. I was ranting and raving about accessibility problems around campus, and how tough it was to be disabled and going to college. I looked at what I had and I realized nobody was going to read my angry words.
I took a different tact. I took my readers, sat them down, and gently put a pair of my shoes on their feet. I told a story of my best buddy. I told of some of the obstacles that my best buddy faced in the course of the day and the ways he got around them.
People who knew me knew right away who "my best buddy". They were affected by my words. The sports editor, who I barely knew, called me and told me how much he like the column.
My best buddy. Twenty four years out of college now. Twenty one years working as support staff for child welfare.
Life has been good to my best buddy. Twenty one years ago he married a girl he had met at a elementary school for disabled kids. Their life goal was to not have kids, but to take care of each other without relying on outside help.
Five years later, God surprised them with a son. Family and friends were there to help. The pregnancy, birth and early years, but there was never a lack of love and support behind them.
One time my buddy and his wife tried to by a lot in Beaverton on which to place a manufactured home. The owner would not sell it to my buddy and his wife because he did not think my buddy could work, even though he did have a job.
On the other side of the spectrum, a few years ago when my buddy and his wife needed a larger van to haul both of their scooters, my buddy found the perfect van on the internet. My buddy, his wife, and their son drove to Seattle to look at it. It was decked out with a ramp and restraints. It was expensive, but the dealer and the bank worked things out. A week later the van was their's, one of the simplest transactions in their lives.
My best buddy's wife is now in a powerchair full time now. At first she felt that laying down her crutches was a form of giving up. It has proven to be a much greater level of independence for her. Even so, it has been a surprise to her how many local business don't have automatic doors. She has to struggle with the door herself, or wait for the kindness of strangers to help.
My best buddy uses a walker much of the time these days. It bothers him sometimes when people are in such a hurry to get around him that he does not have time to get out of their way. It bothers him that walkways are narrow and/or cluttered in such a way that hurried people can't get around him. It bothers him that he always needs to get out of the way.
Forget being aware of my best buddy's disability - be aware of my best buddy!
This is my contribution to Blogging Against Disableism Day 2011.
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