Understanding Disability: Taking an Unlikely Approach

Understanding Disability: Taking an Unlikely Approach

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Living with cerebral palsy you inevitably grow frustrated on occasion. Frustration unnecessarily related directly to the condition’s impairments. Rather people’s actions trigger your aggravation. Too many individuals not understanding disability!

Whether involving a family member, friend, teacher, co-worker, even stranger surely you can recall a moment where the subsequent words crossed your mind. “But you don’t understand!” Unfortunately, for those lacking the firsthand insights understanding disability frequently proves an elusive task. Yet I hold faith the non-disabled possess the ability to attain such comprehension.

Success or failure in understanding disability largely correlates to resources utilized. Your initial go-to sources probably include white coats and heavy books. Admittedly doctors and medicalized reading serve a crucial purpose. Their information establishes a foundation enabling you to further comprehend. Error occurs however when learning stops at the abovementioned.

By focusing narrowly on symptoms, treatment options, and prognosis medical textbooks and physicians lose important perspective relevant to fully understanding disability.Physicians and thick hardbacks often overlook an important aspect. Oversight caused by magnified focus. Examining closely symptoms, treatment options, and prognosis leads to lost context. A valuable factor omitted. We who compose the disability population also encounter a second condition, the human condition!

Emotions drive all humans. Understanding disability means comprehending the way feelings influence motivation. Through said comprehension similarities everybody shares outshines differences. Resultantly, the capability to empathize improves. Empathy eliminates the previously mentioned thought “But you don’t understand!”

Mission accomplished, right? I wish! To read wisdom off a screen differs against attaining and applying daily. Reality an unlikely approach could alter.

Move past the PHDs and medical textbooks. Organize a theater night. Understanding disability becomes enjoyable courtesy the stage show Handicap This.

Zooming Out

Earlier I noted narrowed concentration hinders perspective. Consequently, understanding disability grows difficult. Hence the significant need to metaphorically zoom out and consume the larger view.

Via revisiting true life stories onstage Handicap This succeeds adjusting the figurative lens. The act introduces audiences to a powerful friendship between Mike Berkson and Tim Wambach. Mike’s severe cerebral palsy brought the duo together.

Circa early 2000s Tim received the assignment to work as then seventh grader Mike’s one-on-one classroom aide. Despite differing professional and student roles accompanying a decade-plus age difference, the two developed an undeniable bond. A relationship they believed held potential to educate, empower, and entertain. Thus the eventual creation Handicap This.

A scene near Handicap This’ beginning effectively captures the sentiments regarding perception. Recounting his first solo adventure alongside Mike, Tim remembers stares. Fellow mall goers fixating onto Mike’s wheelchair and unique body positioning. Onlookers saw CP oppose to a kid.

Activating Initiation Sequence

Although likely unintentional, the shoppers’ behavior initiates a reaction protocol. Internally you analyze the unfolding situation, deciding how to react. Embarrassed, regretting you left the house. Angry, you ready to release a sarcastic remark. Annoyed, self-reminding to repeat positive affirmations to escape irritation.

Someone arguably may dismiss the above unknown person scenario, calling the encounters inconsequential. Nonetheless the same argument falters upon application to familiar faces. Dealings featuring parents, siblings, educators, and other acquaintances carry vital impact. Fact demonstrated within Handicap This’ performance.

Imagine earning your class’ top grade. Nevertheless after privately meeting your teacher you leave upset. Precise events Mike experienced. The unnamed instructor making hurtful accusations, founded amid unfair stereotypes. Allegations usually leaving Handicap This’ crowds to collectively sigh sympathetically.

Considering what I highlighted to now, Handicap This might sound a bummer. Perchance your impression, fault me. Apparently I am failing giving Handicap This proper dues.  Overall Mike and Tim’s journey actually evokes uplifting emotion. Downers like the ones referenced establish framework to empowerment.

To illustrate take the Teacher-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. That tale enhances the value counterpart Mr. L presents. Roughly quoting Handicap This “Mr. L saw Mike not as a problem, but as a student with a problem.” Adopting a problem-solving mindset, problems become conquerable. Essentially the Mr. L example reveals a grand lesson towards understanding disability. Possibilities originate from attitude.

Wheelchairs Everywhere!

Mr. L recognized a troublesome barrier preventing Mike’s full participation during class. Mike cannot raise his hand. Therefore the classroom rule “Raise your hand and wait to be called on” restricted his chances to participate. Attributing the restriction to cerebral palsy seems reasonable. An assertion Mr. L showed otherwise.

Reminiscing about Mr. L Handicap This spotlights his ingenuity. Traditional logic stated “Mike has CP and he cannot raise his hand.” Innovating Mr. L instead pondered “What can Mike do? How do we take those abilities and enable him to alert teachers he wants to be called on?” End result allowed Mike to participate while simultaneously following the rules.

Happenstance, Mr. L’s mentality additionally emphasizes a point I acknowledged prior. Albeit briefly, I suggested human nature gives everyone commonalities. A concept I detailed previous to today promoting the message “Normal is a myth.”

Denis Berkson once explained to Tim Wambach, "We all have our wheelchairs. Most of them just aren't visible."Fittingly Handicap This expresses a similar notion, just phrased differently. Tim retells a statement Mike’s father Denis told him once Tim started aiding Mike. “We all have our wheelchairs. Most of them just aren’t visible.”

Wheelchairs symbolize life’s obstacles, hurdles to confront. Viewing disabilities likewise promotes assimilation. Understanding disability achieved and implemented!

Assume Control

Given your continued attention, I risk an assumption. Somewhere inside my blogging I transferred to you interest. Suddenly you want Handicap This coming to your hometown!

No matter your school, workplace, neighborhood organization, you observe misunderstanding. Disconnect averting community members’ skill to successfully understand disability. Sensation you believe Handicap This able to resolve.

Before moving forward, let me applaud you. Your eagerness to leap into action warrants recognition. A lesser individual chooses to complain. You decided to rise.

Likeminded compulsion inspired my post here. Recently I learned due to health concerns Mike plans to stop traveling. Nearly a decade Mike and Tim traveled the country using a two-man stage show format to share Handicap This. 2018 represents the two-man presentation’s farewell.

A passionate Handicap This believer, I felt compelled to spread the sad news. Aspiration to help people witness Mike’s razor sharp personality preceding his retirement drives me. Still I realize you wanting Mike and Tim to hit up your town along the Handicap This farewell tour masks your real yearning.

Ideally you desire control over the pair’s schedule. So, grasp the controls! Throughout the years Tim provided content set to guide you forth booking Handicap This. Included two videos starring persons acquainted to the position you currently face. Former teacher Kent Stock and college student Tori Wilson wanted to bring Handicap This to each’s respective area.

Watching both interviews totals roughly 12 minutes. Time wisely spent if serious. Kent and Tori reveal various tidbits. Moreover a common theme appears. Passion fuels your ultimate victory.

Getting Handicap This to a nearby theater takes much coordination. Seldom will everything unfold instantly. Contemplating Mike’s looming travel stoppage, timetable emerges an issue. Avoid fretting though! Looking ahead to the future Tim adapted Handicap This allowing him to perform the duo’s adventures solo. The one-man version keeps the Handicap This legacy active, enhancing others’ skills to cognize disability.

An Unlikely Approach to Understanding Disability

Concluding, certainly a stage show stands an unlikely approach towards understanding disability. Concurrently the traditional route contains weaknesses. Many doctors and medical books possess a heavy concentration on symptoms, treatment options, and prognosis. Although logical, a second condition everyone lives with consequently goes overlooked. The human condition!

Through their act Handicap This shifts the spotlight to the humanly element. That enables audiences to relate, establishing empathy. Once established, understanding disability occurs naturally.

*Disclosure: In the past I completed work for Handicap This’ company, Handicap This Productions. Tasks performed included coordinating guest blog posts, writing show notes for their podcast episodes, working the Handicap This booth at the 2015 Chicago Abilities Expo and more. Currently I am not on their payroll. My belief in Mike and Tim’s message solely motivated today’s post.  Notwithstanding, there might still exist some subconscious bias.    

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