“Disability should not be an obstacle for success”, Stephen Hawking once said. There are many people out there who have succeeded despite having disabilities. Beethoven was deaf and still became one of the world’s most famous composers. Franklin D. Roosevelt led the United States from a wheelchair. The Olympic swimmer Jessica Long has won several gold medals despite having only one leg.
To the average person, seeing someone with disabilities might make you think that that person can’t have an active professional or personal life. This is not the case at all. Yes, I have cerebral palsy, but it has only inspired me to want to do more things that anyone else could.
What People Think
In my day-to-day interactions, some people address me as if I am a three-year-old, while others don’t speak to me at all because either they are unsure how to approach me or they simply don’t want to spend the time. This can be incredibly frustrating and it’s challenging to stay positive in these situations, especially when I don’t have the opportunity to show who I am before having a label assigned to me.
What People Should Know
It’s time to change the perception of what people like me can do. I’ve spent weekends editing movies, improving my language skills in Spanish and had some intense gaming battles in Battlefield. I also work full time as a Marketing Assistant for Tobii Dynavox, a company that provides eye-gaze communication devices to people with disabilities like mine. Because of this device, I can speak four languages, am politically active, work at a high-tech company and have a social life.
Look Beyond the Disability
For those of us with disabilities, it’s easy to just group us together without thinking about it. It’s time we look past that and recognize that we have so much more to offer and a lot of insight to share. Sure, we are faced with greater challenges than others, but when considered in the same way those without challenges are, we can prove to be incredibly valuable.
The ability to communicate and do my job productively, even if it’s different than my colleagues has allowed me to be successful and feel like I can live my life to the fullest.
The next time you see someone that seems to face different challenges, whether that be the ability to walk or talk the same way as you, I ask that you take a step back and give us a chance. We just might surprise you.