So what constitutes a disability? Having been born without a left hand, I remember that it took me a number of years to feel that it was okay to be just as angry over that as was the individual who had lost the use of his legs through a car accident. Relatively speaking, my loss was less than his, but my anger was often no less intense. So to answer the question - What constitutes a disability? - is a relative matter.
Obviously, being born or acquiring a disability can, to say the least, have a major impact on your life.It can shape or reshape the way in which you look at yourself and the way in which you relate to others. Managing a disability is a time-consuming process. It often places you in a dependent role with others. It is, by definition, frustrating. It can limit your life in many ways. It can close doors. But as they say, it can also open new ones. One of the new ones is the ability to see things from a very different perspective.
In considering my own experience with what many might consider a minor disability, the absence of a left hand, I have sometimes struggled with a question of ‘where do I fit?’ I am clearly not able-bodied. No, the military agreed and didn’t send me to Vietnam. Of course, I really do not understand what it would be like to have two hands. The world is set up for people who have two hands. Everything from tying your shoes to opening most containers assumes that you have good use of both hands.
But what am I complaining about? I can walk upstairs, I can drive a car, etc. And so the debate has always gone. Inside of me, at least. But I do know that I share a lot in common with other people who have a disability. I certainly feel the same about many issues. For example, I know that I am different and a minority in most settings. I was the only kid in my hometown with one hand. Like most persons with a disability, I have been questioned all my life as to why I'm different. Although I've gotten more comfortable with this over the years, I’ve never quite gotten used to it. As a child, I used to avoid these questions and looks by hiding my difference, e.g., putting my deformed hand into my left pocket.
We’ll talk more in the next post about this unwanted gift that we receive with a disability. Looking at things from a different perspective.