Archive for category Physical Challenge: Mobility

Advantages of Disability

I am generally dissatisfied with the manner in which disability is handled in whatever society though that does not necessarily represent a deliberate effort to take less notice of disability per se. Such disparities manifest themselves in different ways such as the language that is spoken in the society and/or the facilities and assumptions that everyone automatically makes when he/she comes across a handicap/disabled person. Some of the words used to refer to disabled people are derogatory but more often than not is their tendency to emphasize the disability and thus create a certain mental image of someone who is less than he/she ought to be.

In the about section of this blog, I have proclaimed my pride in being handicap/disabled (the specific term does not mean that much to me as an individual handicap/disabled person) person. Today it occurred to me that I have not spent some thoughts in pointing out the advantages of a disability. For the sake of this post, a disability must be a condition to which there are currently no effective cure and specifically physical disability though some of the points that may be brought up can be extrapolated to cover other kinds of disability.

Living with a disability goes beyond the physical manifestation of the handicap since that manifestation will heavily influence how the person concern views life and goes on to live it. In a sense, the fact that a person is disabled means that they need to learn some life skills which are either taken for granted by the normal people who are on the whole irrelevant to them.

Planning & Strategizing

As a physically handicap person, the simplest thing that you can possibly go out of your way to carry out would require planning as there is need to make sure that everything is setup in such a manner as to ensure the success of the mission/task. For example, I have found myself looking for that extra information about the building where I am going (if I have never been there before) because it is important that I know before hand if the building is storied and if so if there are any lifts or stairs. In case there are stairs, then it becomes necessary to establish if there are handrails so that I am able to get to my destination. Of course in the middle of all these considerations, a key point remains what floor my destination is located. The details of the plan is developed for each new trip/mission/task will depend on the kind of disability.

The process of planning any new is accompanied with a desire to ensure that resources such as time and effort are used efficiently. So time and resources are planned to yield the highest possible return. I must admit that this does not always happen but for a handicap person maximizing the returns on any effort expended is always a priority.

Problem Solving

One of the things that handicap people in general are forced to confront is developing solutions that works for their particular situations. As a general rule that enables a better understanding of problems in any given situation and the accompanying effort required to ensure success. I generally avoid exposure to any buildings that are storied and lack stair cases but when I joined university, I had to figure out a way of scaling stairs with two crutches and a caliper. The solution to this particular problem had to assume both the presence of a good Samaritan at the base or top of the stair or the likely possibility that I will find myself alone. The solution I had come up with both addresses these problems but I also had to adjust the rest of my approach to attending classes; of particular interest is carrying back packs as these would increase the load that needed to be moved between floors.

The important skills learnt here as a result of living a handicap life is identifying a problem and defining it so as to develop solutions that address the problem adequately. Of particular interest is that there is a need to ensure a balance between the capabilities of the solution provider and the desired outcome. As in the aforementioned example, the first objective was to ensure that the handicap person retains as much independence as much as possible while solving the particular problem at hand. In any given business environment it would be particularly advantageous to have people who can solve problems within the confines of limited budget and resources. As mentioned in the above example, the solution to the stair case problem retains long term strategic relevance so the ability evaluate the effects on any given choice is much more heightened for a handicap person.

Team Spirit

A disabled person is already limited in one way or the other so he/she would need to depend on someone for support so it is in his/her lifestyle to know when to give control to more capable people. All organizations and employers are interested in team players and more so in team players who can recognize their own weaknesses and strengths and as such bring the whole team together as one continuous group that complement each other towards a common goal. Disability forces a person to see himself/herself in terms of his strengths which are essentially what comprises his/her identity as well as weaknesses which threaten the success of his/her efforts.

It is also important to point out that there are disabled people who may possess the potential for leadership. Leadership combined with a disposition towards team spirit can lead to a high performing group. A leader who is predisposed to engage the team will make decisions that are both beneficial to the team as well as delegate jobs and responsibilities to those who will have the most appropriate skills to bring the most return.

It goes without saying that dealing with organizations, there are other factors beyond the possession of leadership skills as well as a disposition to foster team spirit. Someone with leadership qualities would be much better placed to adapt to any new demands as and when they occur. For handicap persons, anticipating change and trying to account for it before it happens is almost second nature.

Organization & Patience

As a physically handicap person, there are things that will require more effort to accomplish hence the desire and push to plan and organize more is geared towards ensuring that when the first step is taken then every possible problem has been identified and contingency plans hinted at or at the very least put at an advanced state.

In my life, there are instance in which I detect a certain level of impatience with me with regard to this but the benefits one reaps in the long run as a result of planning and organizing before implementation is whole the slow start or the apparent lack of progress in the initial stages.

The ability to plan and organize leads to an interesting outcome as well in a sense that you are not hurried in whatever you choose to under take since there may be multiple pieces to the same puzzle and each of them will come into play at different times. So you wait for everything to fall into place and plans progress towards and objective.

Related to organization and patience is intolerance towards actions or activities that seemingly waste time and effort. Such intolerance can be well founded since planning and organization will inevitably lead to justifying the task at hand and examining more cost effective avenues of reaching the same goals. The end result of such a process is that whatever effort is put in place is always justifiable and as such would require all possible focus to ensure its success. It is not a perfect process and may not work that well in new situations but the intention is always to look for a chance and opportunity to do it much better and using much less effort to accomplish.

Conclusion

While a disability forces a different view of life out of necessity, the different perspective does have advantages which become both heighten and developed in handicap people. The aforementioned qualities are not certainly limited to handicap people but their lifestyle makes them important qualities to have and practice and as such they have been constantly and regularly fine tuned. Handicap people are human being as well and the aforementioned list may not be applicable to them all and it is entirely possible that some of them are not even aware that they exercise such qualities in their lives.

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Disability, Dating & Relationships

A while back I read an article that talked about a typical day out for a handicap person and much of it did strike a chord with me because any sort of outing can rapidly become more involving than is obvious. I have given this dating thing a whirl and in most cases, it does not get far enough before I see that there is no way it is going to work. This is not going to be another one of those sob stories about “look at the poor handicap guy or gal”. If you are not aware, I am a physically handicap guy and I do take some amount of pride in being physically handicap; I can comfortably state that the idea of waking up one morning and not being handicap does freak me out. Having said that, living life as a handicap person necessarily needs a different approach to getting things done as there are moments in which you will need someone to give a hand.

Last year, I did make an effort to date and truly see how far it could go. It was an enlightening experience on so many levels but at the end of it, I am not entirely sure it is for me. There seems to be a myriad of unstated norms that are expected in dating that sometimes conflict with the basic assumptions I have made about how I lead my life. These are assumptions I have become comfortable with – call them personal norms. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent time with some wonderful people in the past year that I am currently left comparing the good experience and dare I say I am thinking of actually asking the persons in question to provide some commentary so as to allow me to have an insight as to how they have such better understanding of me.

A disability can be generally defined as something that affects an organ or two of a person’s body that results in the organ(s) in question not working normally. Based on my experience with dating (little as it is) and my attempts at establishing a stable relationship, I think that definition alone is fundamentally misleading because that abnormal working (or lack of it for that matter) goes further than simple physiology. It defines how you see things in life, how you value things thus shaping what kind of person is important or not particularly important to you in any given situation. But the most important part is that it also creates a unique sets of fears that to most normal people just don’t make sense. They don’t make sense because for an able-bodied person, it just does not make sense that you can’t see all the colors that are there or you can’t hear the good music or perhaps can’t fully grasp the idea of standing and walking unaided.

My disability is not the sort that you can hide and so disclose it when the time comes; it is there in broad daylight for all to see, judge and react to accordingly. Here, I must point out that one of the most important tasks in my younger life was to become comfortable with who I am. For those who have ever taken the interest in my disability, they may perhaps come to the conclusion that I don’t mind discussing my disability as long as it is treated with respect and my dignity as a person is given its due respect. One of the most important things that I always tried to do is to communicate: if you are not sure ask questions. This is so much engaging that at the end, wrong assumptions are avoid entirely. As I typed that sentence, I am reminded of the adage that it is better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission … well, for such an adage to apply in any context in which I am involved, the perpetrator better have above average people’s skills.

Communicating is one of the key components that have allowed me to develop relationships that are both supportive and appreciative of me. I have always maintained that as a handicap person it is important that I understand what it is that I want though that also means that I don’t like assumptions being made about me or what I might do. I am not sure how many handicap people feel like that but I would think it is a common feeling because it is one of the ways of defining yourself as an individual separate from everyone else. If you think about it, this definition of what it means to be an individual, disabled or not, is the fundamental basis of any relationship. I believe that people in any relationship need to have sufficient understanding of themselves as individuals that they are able to support each other and know who (and when) to turn to for help.

For a handicap person, there is this constant assertion that you are not really part of all that goes around you that it is easy to get lost. For example, think of what goes through the mind of a handicap person who uses a wheelchair when he/she comes across a storied building that does not have a lift? How likely will it be that he/she comes across this building because somebody decided on a whim that they should checkout some fun join in the building? From my own experience, I use crutches to move around but that movement is no where close the average walking pace of a normal person. So when I walk with able-bodied people and they happen to have a faster pace than I can keep up with, it is likely that they will leave me behind. I don’t think it necessary to slow down everyone to my own walking pace unless of course they think that it is the most appropriate thing to in the context. I can get a vibe from a person based on how he/she is walking next to me; if they walk in a sloppy manner (walk too close or tend to make abrupt stops when close to me), then it means that it is quite likely that they are going to kick one of my crutches or their foot may be caught in the path of one of the crutches. Here is the most annoying bit: some people walk too close to me to such an extend that it requires additional stunts (attempting to regain my balance) to avoid hitting them and at the same time not to fall down.

Such subtle incidents tend to give me a better idea about what goes on in a person’s mind; in picking up these clues as they are, the challenge of communicating becomes impossibly huge. The key obstacle is that in most cases when I talk to a date about my disability, they seem to get this impression that it is politically incorrect or I may find it offensive. The conversation will end up being side trucked somehow and it all evaporates into thin air which of course means that the same old ways of doing things continues. The conversation may well end before it starts but the greater challenge is how does a handicap person tell an able-bodied person that he/she is walking too closely and should be more aware of how he/she walks; I want to walk on the street and not have to shout at someone who is walking with me because they are far away or worse yet walk in a single file – yeah, that would make for some quality conversation.

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A perspective on Independent living

Yes, I am guilty of neglect and I could launch into an endless string of explanations of how it came to be that I didn’t post a single entry on my blog in the last couple of months. To put it simply, life has been happening and I have not had much time to share parts of it at least. This entry is not going to be focused in any way and it may well wander all over the place.

This is not an entry about technology but rather about some perspectives that I have gathered over time and all seem to recently make sense. I don’t know if I have ever blogged about my thoughts on personality generally (as derived and manifested by yours truly) but I think one of the strangest thing that I did or perhaps had to do earlier on was to involve myself in a seemingly methodological effort to understand who I am as a person as well as a handicap/disabled individual. Yes, there was a time that I thought it offensive to be called disabled but right now I don’t think it really matters. And that assertion in itself speaks volumes in a sense that I am who I am and there is not much that anybody can do (regardless of the name they elect to use) about it.

As I grew up and began to understand my limitations and the ways at my disposal to accommodate those limitations, I came to understand how truly vulnerable I truly was and perhaps still am. If you are an able bodied person reading, this I want you to assume (if you can) that you are dependent on somebody … how would you go about defining yourself? What is it that makes you an individual that is different from everyone? I would suppose the answer to such a question would preferably not include the persons on whom you are so dependent for the slightest of things. Please note that this is not an attempt to justify a desire to be alone but rather a subject of a person’s dignity in such a manner as to ensure that those on whom the handicap person is dependent upon treat him or her with the respect and dignity that he/she deserves (of course taking into account the reality of his disability).

Independent living is not about a handicap person living by himself or herself or being able to survive in the exclusion of others. But the important aspect of independent living is more about being involved in living life as a handicap person. To me at the moment this means, at the very least being made aware of things that will affect me – more so things that will affect my mobility. It does not stop with mobility and in reality for any person to be participate in a handicap’s person attempt at an independent living, the key thing to keep in mind is being considerate.

The most natural reaction for most physically handicap persons faced with the challenge of defining who they are is to put more effort to be independent. From the surface of it, it sounds like a noble decision and indeed something that should be supported. There are a number of perspectives to be considered in handicap’s person’s pursuit of his or her independence: a) the perspectives of the handicap person in question and b) the perspective of those who want to help.

One of the greatest mistakes that the handicap person makes in his or her pursuit of independence is to demand that he is treated as if he or she does not have a disability. As my father once told me: accept who you are … I am physically handicap and it is a terribly beautiful thing and I am comfortably aware that if I wake up the following morning without a disability, I shall be in the middle of hell itself. Understand the importance of accepting and/or demanding the recognition of a disability as a necessary part of that independence. For a handicap person who wants to be treated like he or she does not have a disability, please consider the possibility of being challenged to a 100 metre race with able bodied runners. Yes, I suppose you are now thinking that it would be stupid of a physically handicap person to be challenged a 100 meters race with able-bodied runners … but consider how different that is from demanding that the reality of a disability be ignored.

There are those who would make the argument that the fact of the disability is ignored in the context of making a decision – like making a decision about employment. I suppose there are some truths to that but ultimately the employer must necessarily recognize that the person is handicap and the extend of his or her disability.

For those who want to help the handicap well, I think they need to understand that ignoring the disability all together is perhaps dangerous and more often than not would be insulting. The true meaning of an independent living is being involved in decisions that affect us as handicap people. Personally, I don’t like decisions that affect me being made and effected without my consultation or at least information. The next time you are dealing with a handicap person and decides to make a decision without involving him or her, please examine your motives. I would hazard a guess that somewhere (deep down inside), you are truly convinced that you know what’s best for the handicap person in question. Then ask yourself this question: how could you? These are people who I would like to think of as having a messiah-complex of sorts: they actually believe that it is their sole mission on earth to save the handicap person hence they must do everything in their power to ensure that they do not stress or strain the handicap person. Physically handicap, usually means that the person is capable of rational thought and as such can make decisions about the levels of his or her stress and what is too much and what is not. A recent encounter has enabled me to develop a model of how such persons present themselves; it is an evolving model – still in its infancy really but should be interesting to see how it grows. Note: it is not a scientific model so you are not going to expect any published papers any time soon.

There are those who also buys into some handicap’s person’s warped understanding of what it means to live independently. These are the kind of people who despite their full capacity to assist a handicap person in living independently, they will generally keep their distance. This is a new phenomenon that has recently captured my attention – it could just be a function of a personality profile but I would definitely be interested in knowing what kind of a personality exhibit such characteristics.

The final objective of independent living is self-esteem and self-respect and perhaps this is something that everyone involved need to appreciated.

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Irrelevant but Important: My View

One of my most recent posts dealt with a subject that I am currently dealing with and with help from my friends I am gaining a much better insight into the situation. As a mantra that I like repeating to myself as often as possible: it is NOT an Event but a PROCESS. Effectively communicating what it means to be physically challenged is something that will take time and will likely involve mistakes along the way but that is a price that must be paid in order to improve and continuously move forward.

In this post, I would like to dwell on how I deal with the subject of “Irrelevant but Important”: I don’t completely dismiss the fact that I am physically handicap and/or any of the resultant side effects that exists because of that reality. It is a complicated situation that at the moment requires a conscious decision which will eventually strike a balance between reaching for the best that my potential can support and provide, while not reaching for goals that are beyond my capacity to initiated and maintain as a physically challenged person. Perhaps one of the most important perspective I have of my physical challenges is that it is yet another fact to be considered and as such resources can be brought to bare to palliate some of the adverse effects that may result from it.

In using the available resources to improve my quality of life, it must be abundantly clear that the resources in question will result in a net positive effect on my life and those I care about; the basic point is that the resources are not used automatically to reduce any adverse effects that I come across. It is sometimes necessary to consider the long term view of an obstacle in my path; this means that I would much rather suffer any adverse in the short-to-medium term while increasing the possibility that the long term will be significantly better.

While it is important that I take into account the reality of my physical challenges, it is not understood (to me) as an automatic obstacle to any end that I have in mind. However, it is dealt with as any problem that has a particular structure and hence can be decomposed into constituent parts and solutions developed to address the smaller parts and hence solving the bigger picture. In viewing my physical challenges as a problem that needs a solution as opposed to anything that inherently defines my capabilities, I have assumed responsibility over anything that affects me as a physically challenged person.

I believe in personal responsibility and over the years it has seemed pointless to seek to assign blame to anybody for my physical challenges but instead take responsibility for it. As a matter of principle, ONLY I hold the right to make any decision that will negatively impact me as a physically challenged person: this decision cannot be shared, neither can it be delegated at any point in time. The probability that this assertion is false is abysmally miniscule (only to allow for human error).

I recently had a memorable experience with a friend of mine; we were arranging to get together and as with such things (at least in my experience), there is need to agree on a suitable date, time and of course the venue. I decided to propose the date and time and leave the venue for my friend to decide. She decided to take sometime in thinking of the venue of our get together (yeah, I like organizing for things before hand). To cut to the chase, she picked out a place and sent me a text message and the message is what actually impressed me: she pointed out that there would be stair cases and hence it was up to me to agree to meet at this venue or not. That small narrative demonstrate that she suggested a nice place to meet and let me know of any potential difficulty that I might have at the venue which is considerate of her. Having the information about stair cases allowed me to prepare mentally to deal with a stair case but at the same time also prepare for any eventuality in which the staircase proves to be unmanageable; plan A was developed, a plan B and C were worked out and all resources necessary to realize all three plans are comfortably accounted for.

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Irrelevant but Important

The most personal aspect of my life is perhaps my physical challenge which until this point I have a pretty good understanding of it: I can work with it and live a life with it but it has been quite obvious that I need to improve my efforts in communicate what this physical challenge means. While I understand and respect that not everybody would want to know about my physical challenge, it ultimately affects the manner which in I interact with people. The balance between telling those who are interested or at least should be interested and not bothering those who don’t want to know has been a challenge. In this regards, I think my interaction with kids has been the most inspiring examples I can point to: I have come across a number of kids who would just ask a question straight out and I will have no choice but to answer them within the context of their question.

What I haven’t figured out still is how to tell someone that my physical challenge is fundamentally irrelevant to the meaning of my life but it is something that cannot (I won’t allow it) be overlooked: it is fundamentally irrelevant to the definition of my life but it is irrevocably part of my life. Yes, it does sound totally contradicting but there is a distinct differentiation between these two statements. It is fundamentally irrelevant to the definition of my life in that it does not preclude me from participating in living but at the same time it also defines and/or affect the manner in which I participate in living. That is as simply as I can possibly put it but that difference I have not explained to anybody yet. Of course this is further complicated by the fact that there are those who are close to me who have an intrinsic appreciation for this difference while others are seemingly oblivious this fact.

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Quality of Thought

Mind over matter and similarly sounding adages have been around for ages. Plato’s philosophy for example placed a lot of emphasis on the working of the mind and the results thereafter and there was a time when I was sounding rather Platonic in my approach to this subject. Mind over matter for a physically handicap person, sounds like the revelation of the basic equation for life itself. I can’t entirely dismiss the effects of that particular assumption because it led me to the conclusion that proper and quality thought processes can make life significantly simple by removing the complications that cloud’s one’s judgement. For a physically handicap person, his/her challenge remains the single most important obstacle in most of life’s endeavors.

In my case this challenge is mobility and it occurred to me that keen awareness of who I am allows me to plan for my mobility in such a manner that I can get important things done while at the same time cultivating habits such as punctuality. While this is one of the most powerful uses of thought to manage a seemingly hostile physical reality, it does not obviate the importance of matter or perhaps even the most fundamental truth that matter is foundation on which these thoughts occur in the first place.

I have since adjusted my orientation to accommodate the physical reality of who I am and this means that I celebrate, at every possible opportunity the perfection of my “disability”. Think about it, I am physically handicap and can more often than not get to an appointment on time; I am proud of that fact and believe that it is something that goes beyond wanting to prove a point. It is a personal commitment that ultimately serves to foster a balance between my physical challenge and an ability to bring to bear quality thoughts and the will to carry out the resolution of these thoughts.

This is currently the most stable foundation from which I dedicate additional efforts to find out the truth of the sum of who I am (mind, body and spirit). IT IS NOT AN EVENT BUT A PROCESS. A process that will require additional calibrations and adjustments over the course of its evolution and perhaps once in a while, it may be necessary to tear down an old foundation and build a new one that will be more appropriate in the context.

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Physical Challenge: Mobility

Living life as a physically handicap person is quite fascinating to say the least and as time passes it has come to occur to me that the state of being physically handicap is perhaps not the most difficult challenge there is. Instead the challenge lies in adopting to the environment that the handicap person must necessarily interact with. The sheer scale and influence of this environment makes this a non-trivial endeavor that is more than just a short term goal but more of a life-long commitment.

I am physically handicap and perhaps even proudly so; mobility is one of the subjects that constantly occupies my thoughts and the bulk of most of what I do takes into account and must accommodate my need to ensure that my movement is efficient and possibly minimal. I believe people should take personal responsibilities for and in their actions; my mobility is my personal responsibilities and as such it is solely upon me to make decisions that affect my mobility and perhaps more importantly it is absolutely imperative that I am involved in making any decisions that will negatively affect my mobility.

The sheer amount of mental strength that I spend in managing my mobility can not be quantified and this is likely to become more complex with time; while the passing of time will complicated the manner in which I manage my mobility, it will also mean that the bulk of whatever resources I can access will be spent in reducing any complexity that develops.

The following are some of the basic guidelines that I follow when actively making decisions about my mobility:

  • Any movement I undertake must be necessary; this means that I cannot find someone to handle the matter that requires my mobility.
  • Generally stair cases should be avoided whenever possible but if the movement in question is necessary for one reason or the other, then a two storey building can be managed. Of course the use of elevators is perfectly welcomed.
  • I have no need or desire to tolerate anybody who would choose to stand me up; anybody (except those who have already used up their one chance to stand me) have one chance to stand me up and thereafter it does not happen again. Please note that it is much better to cancel an appointment (in good time) instead of standing me up.
  • Use of public transport during rainy weather is generally avoid; any possibility of rain, coupled with the use of public transport will most likely lead to the cancellation or postponement of an appointment.

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