Tag Archive: disability


A while back, under the Taboo Topics section of my blog i invited a group of friends to share some stories they are living with regards to disability. This week i was asked if i could share this post highlighting some of what has been taking place in Americaland with regards to people with disabilities as well as some opportunities in which you can get involved. This guest post comes courtesy of Janessa Dayan, Cause Outreach Associate for Goodshop:

July 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since the bill was made law in 1990, the ADA represents support and inclusion for all people with disabilities. Equal access to employment, education, transportation, and housing are just a few things the ADA is responsible to give. This civil rights law represents America’s inclusionary spirit and support for individuals with disabilities.

However, social stigma is still placed heavily on the backs of people with disabilities. Disabled individuals are often disregarded and socially avoided as a result of the negative assumptions people connect to them. Instead, we should encourage others to think living with disabilities is neither better nor worse, but rather, just a different way of living. Living with disabilities is not something to look down upon or feel bad for. For some people, having a disability does not affect every aspect of their life, and for others it may be how they identify entirely. Every person is different and living with a disability shouldn’t be the only aspect of a person we see.

As advocates and allies for people with disabilities, it is crucial to empower and respect our friends, regardless of their capabilities. Being respectful and patient to those who are disabled and allowing them to make their own decisions can go a long way to show your support.

The Arc, a non-profit that started as a parent led organization to support their children with disabilities against discrimination, continues to serve people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. With over 300 chapters around the US, The Arc strives to ensure support and resources for people with disabilities accessible to everyone. Some of The Arc’s programs offer information and referral services, residential support, family support, and fun recreational activities catered to people with disabilities.

Advocating for people with disabilities creates another step towards a more equal and inclusive society. To help support The Arc and their mission to ensure an equal way of living for people with disabilities, or other disability advocate non-profits, donate through Goodshop! Select The Arc and Goodshop will donate a percentage of your purchase you make at stores like Nike, Shutterfly, and Blue Nile!

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The other day i wrote a post titled, ‘Do the Different Need a Disclaimer?’ in which i touched on how meeting someone with a disability or condition that makes them quite different to you can be challenging or scary in terms of not wanting to be awkward or embarrass them [or yourself] and my friend Michelle wrote a long comment in response. i asked her if she would upgrade it to a post as it felt quite crucial to this important conversation and this is what she sent me [which is one of the most powerful things i have read and had the privilege of sharing on my blog, thankx Michelle!]:

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There is a huge culture of silence around encountering different bodies so thank you for posting an honest account of your reaction (internal as well as external) to this moment.

When trying to unpack some of the stuff around what I call “responding to difference” it’s hugely important to remember that those who embody the difference often experience silence as absolutely imperative to acceptance and easier relating.

This means that when encounters like yours happen (and they are bound to as we all move through our worlds) they hold an awful lot of baggage on both sides. Baggage which is most often unspeakable. Unspeakable because the so-called “able-bodied” are taught not to stare at difference and because the different are taught that value is found only in sameness.

What we’re left with then is embarrassment, guilt, awkwardness and silence on the part of both the different ones and the same ones and the nagging question of what constitutes difference or sameness anyway?

So what are we all supposed to do? Are the different bound to disclaim our difference upfront; “Sorry, I have no fingers”. I guarantee you the “sorry” will always be uttered – I’m sorry that for some reason out of my control my body won’t conform to sameness.

I want to say here that I believe that difference exists. It is a reality not a construction. This is actually a pretty torrid debate amongst disability theorists, many of whom claim that physical impairments are simply constructed as different in opposition to a dominant norm of sameness. So for example, these scholars have suggested that blindness is simply an alternate way to see. Interesting and mind-shifting but my personal belief is that eyes are meant to see and hands are meant to have fingers and so to lack these things is to be really different in real ways that make a real difference.

At a conference recently, a colleague who is quadriplegic said that when people meet him they never ask the normal questions that people ask other people (“what do you do?”, “are you married?”) they ask “what happened to you?” His different body automatically excludes him from work, love, relationships and he is reduced to “a bad thing that happened”. Difference is allowed to eclipse everything else about him and mostly dominates any relationship going forward.

So different people exist in a tricky place between real difference that makes a difference and, at the same time, wanting to be recognised for the sameness parts of us, the shared humanity of things like the music we like and the places we’ve been and the people who are our children and spouses and friends. Not to mention the ways that difference in itself is part of what it means to be human and that vulnerability is an essential part, as much as we may try to deny it, of humanness. We could, in fact, shake anyone’s hand, skip the formalities and ask, “So, what has happened to you?” Somehow, the disability difference, written as it is all over bodies, invites this question more readily.

So, are you overthinking the hand-shake moment? No and yes.

No because this is a good kind of thinking (and not just thinking but speaking too). This kind of stuff has to be spoken about, debated and thought about. Otherwise, the silence continues.

Yes, because a hand-shake is essentially just a weird thing that people do when we meet each other to make some sort of tactile contact and that’s exactly what you did, albeit differently, in this moment. I work with a lot of people with various disabilities and always reach for hands when I meet people and sometimes those hands are different hands. Hands without fingers or fingers that can’t be extended. Of course, this is made more complicated by the fact that I can’t see but however things end up we have still managed to have the “Hi, I see you (except I don’t but you know what I mean)” moment of connection that people need to have.

I think every person is going to respond to their own difference differently depending on what their journey has held. The only possible way to get to know this is by building real relationships with people based around more than just their difference.

[To return to the original post, click here]

[To read more from Michelle who shares about living with a degenerative sight condition, click here]

A Tough Miracle

Thanks, but I’ve had mine

Every once in a while, when I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I pay a visit to a different church. All usually goes well on arrival. I find an empty spot along the side or at the back, planning a quick escape after the service. Then someone who knows me spots me, and my weakness appears… I love a good chat, and even more, a good cuppa tea.

I’m a social creature by nature, and very open to people asking me about my disability. So once I start chatting, I inevitably make a few new friends and the topic comes up. Then the inevitable happens, as if drawn by my magnetic brakes on my electric wheelchair , some well-meaning person will feel compelled to motor on over and insist on praying over me for healing. What they confuse is the message from God, and the voices in their head expressing their own discomfort at the thought of having a disability. It makes them realise their own frailty and humanity.

Make no mistake, I’m never going to turn down anything as powerful as prayer but I do ask that they rather include me in their prayers at home and that they listen to my story first. It’s always rather deflating to see people pray for healing with enormous expectation… And nothing happens. Occasionally, I meet people who are far enough in their journey to understand and appreciate my story, but I tell it anyway:

I’ve already had a miracle. My mother and I were hit by an out-of-control, on-coming car in 2007. The people who arrived on scene assumed we were dead. The professionals who did the accident reconstruction said there was no reason we were still alive. We should not have survived, but we did. That was my miracle. I’ve had my miracle. But I call it a “Tough miracle”.

Every day is hard. Every day I struggle. But I am here. This is my Tough Miracle.

We know the Lord always answers our prayers. However, as mere human beings, we have to accept His wisdom, and that sometimes His answer is “No”, or that He does things in His own time or his own way. He never said life would be smooth sailing, or that following His path would be easy. Those who stop long enough to really listen to my story, realise that I welcome their prayers to aid me through my journey, as long as it’s done in private.

I’ve had my miracle. God uses my disability in many ways. For my students in Inclusive Education, it’s very difficult to say that you cannot teach children with disabilities when your lecturer has a disability. I have learned first hand the difficulties faced by people with disabilities, and have the voice to speak out. And I have realised that physically and emotionally, I am stronger, even though I struggle, and that in God’s eyes, I am whole.

Please remember me in your prayers at home. Pray for those things you can’t see. Don’t worry about my wheelchair. Don’t focus on my needing to walk. Pray for my pain levels to drop.  Pray for the invisible disability I have: depression, which hides behind my smiling facade.

Pray that I have the love and patience to deal with well- meaning, over enthusiastic Christians who insist on praying for me in public, because I have a wicked sense of humour and am tempted to get up and walk (which I can do for short distances), shouting “Hallelujah! It’s a miracle!”

And pray for better understanding in society, so that people wouldn’t use the disabled parking spaces because stupidity is not a disability, that pavements would be flat, and that buildings would be accessible, for empathy not sympathy, and that people would stop assuming that because I use a wheelchair that I have a problem with it.

I’m here. I’m alive. It’s hard, but so is life. It’s my tough miracle.

[Helen is quite a busy woman and so doesn’t get to write too often, but when she does you can catch more of her words at Helen’s fabulous, frivolous, splendiferous, always-odd life on wheels…]

[For other stories from amazing and ordinary people who happen to have a disability or are faced with special needs, click here]

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I’m a quadriplegic, not an inspiration

By Lachlan Nicholson

Fresh off of my twenty-fourth birthday and living with a condition known as spastic cerebral palsy, I consider most things in my life to be causes for joy and gratitude. After all, I have a full-time job, several good friends and though severe, my disability is not in any way degenerative.

However, one thing which has become a major annoyance, particularly since entering adulthood is constantly being labelled “courageous” or “inspirational”. Considering that I’ve been disabled from birth (brain-damage due to complications during labour), you might think I’d be used to it by now. The fact is that I’m not. You see, calling someone courageous tends to imply that they had a choice in their situation, like a fireman running into a burning building or a police officer taking a bullet to save a civilian.

Well, I hate to break it to you (no, not really) but had I actually been given the choice, I doubt very much that I would willingly have confined myself to a wheelchair for my entire sojourn on this little blue planet.

As for being an inspiration, people who say this to the disabled – usually with a quiver of sentimental reverence in their voices – are undeniably well-meaning, but none of them seem to realise the pressure such a statement carries.

If I were to attempt to live up to this classification, I would be unable to admit that there are days when I’m painfully reminded of my limitations and trust me, at times like those, my attitude is anything but “inspirational”.

This may seem stupidly obvious, but the most important thing to remember about people with disabilities is that even though some of us may look like human-vehicle hybrids, we are human and our personalities comprise far more than the challenges we face.

As a simple example, think about the following scenario; you head to a restaurant one night to enjoy a meal with some friends. Among those gathered is the new girlfriend of one of your mates. This is your first time meeting her; she’s smart, bubbly and attractive, except for a large, unsightly mole on her cheek. Now, unless you’re a complete social cave-dweller, it’s highly unlikely that the first words from your mouth would be, “Hey, nice to meet you. I’m really sorry about that awful thing on your face.”

So, what’s the point of this little rant? I guess it is my humble effort to remind anyone who happens to read it that disabled people are ordinary folks just trying to get by like our bipedal counterparts, perhaps just a little more slowly.

[To meet Uel Maree who had an unfortunate diving accident, click here]

[To return to the start of this series, click here]

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From my friend, Dalene Reyburn: So, I’m honoured to be hanging out with Brett in this bustling corner of the internet to introduce the next Taboo Topics series: people with special needs.

I think Brett’s a hero for having the courage to open up these sorts of topics – things that are often ignored or misunderstood or too fraught with pain to be voiced. This series will give parents and others a safe space to be honest about difficult – confusing – deflating – journeys. A chance to recapture big-picture perspective, and to glimpse God’s glory.

Our eldest son is visually impaired. My husband and I know the emotional exhaustion – fumbling prayer – making stuff up as we go along – of parenting a child with special needs. We’ve done the pointless projections of long-term scenarios. We know how it feels to carry the tension of uncertainty and the fear that our child’s heart will be hurt by life. We’ve experienced people’s kindly ignorance. Sometimes we feel side-lined and sometimes we feel conspicuous and sometimes we’re tired of feeling like That Family. We’ve done anger (where the hell was God?), doubt (does God even love us? Or love our kid?), and guilt (did we do something wrong?). And every day we know the terrifying joy of watching our hearts walking around in someone else’s body.

We’ve also experienced incredible compassion – the enormous warmth and sincere interest of friends and family and total strangers who love us. So many have held up our arms. And this series is about holding up yours. Alongside Brett, I’m praying that these posts will be comfort and relief for brave parents of braver kids. Please come. And know that you are not alone.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’ Daniel 10:19

Meet Lauren van Zyl and her son Noah [A.D.D., Learning Disabilities & Auditory Perception problems]

Meet Louise Bowley [Asperger’s Syndrome]

Meet Shaina Cilimberg [Aspergers Disorder]

Meet Susannah and Monrovia Prinz – [Deaf, from a mom’s perspective]

Meet Kashveera Chanderjith – [Deaf, from a grownup’s perspective]

Meet Rebecca Benn – [Dyslexia]

Meet Steph Mclennan [Mild Ataxia – Cerebral Palsy]

Meet Keith Slabbert [Quadriplegic – Broken neck]

Meet Michelle Botha – [Retinitis Pigmentosa – Degenerative Sight Condition]

Meet Helen Laas – [Soft Tissue Spinal Damage – Car accident]

Meet Lachlan Nicholson [Spastic Cerebral Palsy]

Meet Gabriella Del Fabbro [Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy]

Meet Uel Maree [Spinal Cord Injury – Unfortunate Diving Accident]

[If you are someone living with a disability  or a parent of a child with a disability or know someone who might be up to sharing their story, please contact me at brettfish@hotmail.com – have some stunning stories on the way, but always room for more]

Continuing my sharing of positive news:

Anyone who has heard Nick Vujicic speak or seen him on a video will have been deeply inspired… Nick’s Wikipedia page gives a brief intro to this giant of a man:

‘Nicholas James “Nick” Vujicic (born 4 December 1982) is a Serbian Australian evangelist and motivational speaker born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare ‘disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs. As a child, he struggled mentally and emotionally as well as physically, but eventually came to terms with his disability and, at the age of seventeen, started his own non-profit organization, Life Without Limits. Vujicic presents motivational speeches worldwide, on life with a disability, hope and finding meaning in life. He also speaks about his belief that God can use any willing heart to do his work and that God is big enough to overcome any and all disabilities.’

today on the ‘book there was this picture of Nick holding his new son simply with this comment:

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‘Dream come true. Holding my Baby Boy Kiyoshi. Amazing grace and gift from God. Love you all so much. Thank you for your showers of prayer.’

i feel like that is inspiring and positive to the nth degree…

to visit the site Nick started, Life Wihtout Limbs, which has a lot of inspiring material on it, click here

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