Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Romance with a Disability

- By Stephanie Hickey -

I know that everyone asks themselves this question: "Will I ever find true love?" But this is a particularly tricky question if you are disabled. My insecurities aren't eased by tasteful remarks I read, such as one about Kevin McHale: Artie from Glee. To paraphrase, it went: "He's hot! I'd do him; too bad he's in a wheelchair." That wonderful comment hits the core fear disabled men and women have regarding love. Being disabled, can I really loved? Remarks like this also leave us with the attitude we are lucky to find someone, anyone to love us because we are disabled, as if it takes a very special kind of person to love someone with a disability. And kudos to them for doing so!

I used to feel that way--that being disabled I'd be lucky to find anyone to love me. I was I was always particularly self-conscience of my many operation scars. Will a man be repulsed by these? Would he find them strangely beautiful? Perhaps, what I hoped for most is that he wouldn't notice them at all; he wouldn't even care.

And then it happened. I actually met someone. He acknowledged my scars, but he didn't care about them. But still I worried whether or not I would be capable of meeting his physical needs in a girlfriend. What if he liked taking long walks, or worse, hikes in the mountains? Would he laugh at me if I fell? What if he didn't understand my days, the days my pain kept us from meeting? Like the scars, it didn‘t matter. And he never laughed at me. I was lucky. I found someone who understood the limitations my disability put on our relationship, never letting it affect how much he cared about me. And it did strain our relationship at times, even if he is very gallant and still insists it never interfered in any way. We eventually went our separate ways, not because of my disability, but because of the other factors that occur in relationships. He was not my true love--just my first love.

Now I’m on the search for true love again--and older--new insecurities plague me, particularly as a woman. I fear I may not be able to have children. What if I could have children? Could I be a physically adequate enough mother to provide the playfulness and exertion children need? How will that affect a relationship?

Although these worries nag at me, I realize they’re nothing more than the baggage I’ll carry into a relationship. What woman isn't insecure about her body? What man isn't insecure about his body? And what woman doesn't fear that she may not make the best mother her children need? We all come with insecurities and all relationships come with complications; disabilities may make things in a relationship more complicated, but that doesn‘t mean the obstacles are insurmountable or that they are even obstacles. Anyone who finds true love is blessed and if I stumble in my search for true love, it is not because I am disabled, but because I am human and we stumble in our search for love. Being disabled doesn't mean true love isn’t out there for you to find, even if it seems that way. It may just be harder to see it when it is in front of you.

Photo Credit Flickr

Friday, December 9, 2011

Why Don’t We Use ‘Disability’ and ‘Pride’ together more often?

- By Keith Hosey -

Why don’t we talk more about disability pride? I believe that disability is natural and that people with disabilities can do anything non-disabled people can do, we just do things a little differently sometimes. I understand that not everybody feels like I do about their own disability, but consider this: Eleanor Roosevelt once said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” If we can’t be proud of who we are, how can we ever expect society to treat us as equal?

We need more pride in the disability community. We need to celebrate our heritage and our abilities. Other minority groups celebrate their proud heritage, so why not us too? This community has athletes, comedians, professionals, actors, CEOs, etc. People with disabilities have climbed Mt. Everest won Ms. America and even became President. We have quad rugby, paralympians and the third most used language in America (ASL). We are the largest political minority and, as consumers, we have huge spending power.

Even though Club Foot is one of the most common congenital disabilities in the world, I only knew of one person who was like me when I was growing up, a female figure skater. I could identify with her because we shared the condition of club feet. Only one person who I could say, “hey, she’s like me, I can be successful too.”

We need to recognize and celebrate those people who are role models with a disability. We have Marlee Matlin, Ray Charles, Penelope Trunk, Muhammed Ali, James Durbin and Mark Zupan. We have Leroy Colombo, a Deaf man known as the “world’s greatest lifeguard,” who saved more than 900 lives. We need more role models – and not just the famous ones, but neighbors and friends - to be proud of their abilities and of this community so that kids can say, “hey, he/she’s like me, I can be successful too.”

Are you a person with a disability? We need YOU. Celebrate your disability pride.