Friday, March 26, 2010

People who sit are just as tall as people who stand

   The mainstream media often views standing as a symbol of strength and confidence. I can understand how this makes perfect sense from an able-bodied perspective. Sitting can be seen as an indication of weakness, uneasiness, or a lack of confidence. Our political figures are usually seen standing at the podium as they deliver speeches. Within the community of people with disabilities, our strength must be measured by a different standard as standing is usually difficult if not impossible.

    During the 1930s and '40s Franklin Roosevelt hid his disability from the media and the American people. He used a wheelchair as a result of contracting polio as a child, yet he and his advisers felt that knowledge of his physical condition would make him seem weak and unsuited to do the job of the President. The attitude of US society has become much more open-minded since that time, yet misconceptions remain. Much of this stems from unfamiliarity with disability as a whole or in specific situations.

    In many cases the apparent physical strength of an individual with a disability has no link to their intelligence or character. Whether somebody can walk for short distances, propel themselves in a manual wheelchair, or drive a power wheelchair has no bearing on what they are actually capable of achieving. Some sit upright, while others tilt, lean forward, or find themselves in some other position. Some breathe on their own, some use oxygen, and others require ventilators.

   Dan and I are both examples of this reality. We are graduates of one of the best schools in the country and the world, and we are both working on this blog in an effort to raise awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities. Many other people with disabilities are doing constructive things with their lives. Some are activists, writers, athletes, lawyers, doctors, or even political leaders. Still others have been wounded in the line of duty as police officers, as veterans of military actions, or as victims of gang violence. Many of them have found other things to do with their lives that contribute to the world in one way or another. This is just a sampling of what people with disabilities are doing. Disability does not mean that one lacks ability.

     The point is relatively clear once it has been revealed. While people with disabilities may do things in a different way, they still do the same things as those who are able bodied. This includes exhibiting strength, courage, and ability. I hope that those reading will remember that people who sit are just as tall as people who stand. If people are willing to be open minded in examining various issues, then outside appearances could be stripped away to reveal the truth. The inside of a person holds their real identity, whether it is extraordinary, ugly, or just plain ordinary.

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