by Tim Doran
QUESTION: What might someone who isn't disabled take for granted?
For me, there are a lot of things nondisabled people can do that simply amaze me. Sometimes it is the ability of someone in my town’s community pool to catch a splash ball thrown from thirty feet away…bare-handed! Or the idea that a three-year-old can feed himself with a fork. I unfortunately can’t do those things. People who know me may think that speech would be on top of my list. And I’ll cover that at some point, since it is annoying that people sometimes can’t understand me, or think that my speech issue means that I’m not intelligent. However, fine-motor skills, balance, and independence are the top three things I would love to have more control over.
Fine-motor skills have been my downfall since I was born. I have Cerebral Palsy (CP), which simply means that at some point, either in early development, at birth, or after, my brain was deprived of oxygen. The effects of CP differ between people. Mine is called Ataxia CP. That means I have spasms or shakiness. It could take me twenty minutes to tie a knot when that would be a ten second task for some…the twenty minutes it would take includes me starting the knot over five times. Some say each task takes three or four times as much effort for a person with CP. I would say ‘at least’ three or four times.
But I can say that I got a head-start on computers...in first grade, I was given my own computer setup in the classroom since I couldn’t write. By my teenage years, I was the basic tech support in the family. However, the worst part is being limited to a flip phone (actually, not being able to feed myself is more difficult; but I will talk about that later). Using the touch screen on a smartphone is impossible for me since they are too sensitive. Not having social media on my phone can be very annoying but that’s not why a flip phone is troublesome. The population who uses them is so small they don’t get the frequent updates smartphones do. My flip phone waited years for a major update.
Another problem is the SHIFT key. My phone doesn’t have one. I have purchased this model before, and they all have this issue. I.T. has told me how it’s supposed to work, but it just doesn’t. The people at the top of AT&T’s support chain say that they haven’t had other complaints…duh? No one else is really texting on this phone… I sent a video of my dad showing how it did not work. The guy who contacted me to resolve problems with my phone in the first place never responded.
But it was easier to actually disconnect on vacation when I couldn't get Facebook or email on my phone. While I’m glad that updates made getting them possible, they still aren't super easy to use with a flip phone. So, I’m not glued to it (unless you’re a Baby-Boomer).
Being able to balance and walk without any assistance is something people without disabilities take for granted. Before puberty, I got around mostly without a walker. It always looked like I was about to fall, yet I was okay. When I need to, I can still do it. However, it takes a lot of effort and concentration. I still go to my high school’s football games (GO PIONEERS!!!). Getting on to the bleachers is easy, comparatively. However, getting up the bleachers and to an open spot has always given me a workout.
But, I still love a good bike ride, as those who know me are aware. I go a bit slower. However, I don't find many folks who can do my normal twenty-mile ride; with some major hills. For that, I feel blessed to have the use of my legs.
Independence is something we all strive for. People don’t want to depend on mom and dad forever. Having to live with them is fine. If I’m honest, I’m spoiled beyond measure. But I turned thirty this year, and I still have to depend on them. Not being able to drive sucks. However, the killer for me is not being able to feed myself. I’d love to go out and meet new people, attend alumni events, and date. I just don’t want to do those things with an aide or my parents as great as they are. I am fortunate enough to have a few friends who are willing to take care of me when we’re doing something.
However, my lack of independence has led me to start my own business. I convert home videos to newer formats for people. It’s nice since most folks don't really give me due dates. So I can do that twenty-mile ride when I wake up and not start work until noon, or I can go in the afternoon in the early spring when the weather does not get into the 60s until the afternoon.