Guest Blogger: Leanne Roberts

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Q. Type of disability that impacts your life, or the life of a loved one.

A. Adrianna has spina bifida which limits her mobility and makes it necessary to use a wheelchair for most of her day. She uses a manual wheelchair which does become difficult as the day goes on.

Q. Tell me about a time when you felt empowered.

A. I felt empowered the day I was told that Adrianna would never walk or crawl. She was 5 months old and one of her doctors said she would only ever be a “wheelchair baby”. I was shocked that a doctor would be so quick to make an assumption on my daughter’s perceived abilities. I told him that I knew of no 5 month old babies that could walk or crawl and he didn’t get to decide what Adrianna may or may not be able to do in her future. He told me that I would just have to come to terms with her disability. I left his office, got her medical records and went and found a new doctor for her. Consequently, Adrianna began crawling at one year. She began walking with a walker before she turned two and she spent more of her first 5 years of school walking with AFO’s and her walker than she did in a wheelchair.

Q. If you could change one thing that all public spaces had to change to make life easier what would it be and why? (example – parking lot spaces to all be compliant, sidewalks, parks, restrooms, etc. Maybe give a personal story about how these facilities not being ADA compliant have impacted your life)

A. The biggest problem we have is curbing in parking lots. The handicapped spaces are inevitably located in a way that the front of our car parks up against curbing. This makes for a serious safety issue. Adrianna cannot go toward the front of the car and up the curb to get to our destinations. Instead she must maneuver toward the street and follow the parking lot to the spot where the curbing has a ramp. Sometimes this area with the ramp is quite a distance from the car. Most grocery stores have good parking lots. These are where there is a bumper guard at the front of the car, but no curbing. Adrianna can easily follow the safe area in front of our car and get to the crossing area in front of the grocery store. I wish all parking lots were made this way. It’s not necessarily always about the distance the handicapped space is to the entrance, it also has a lot to do with the ease of access for people in wheelchairs and scooters.

Q. One thing you want people to understand about living with a disability, or being a caregiver for someone with a disability.

A. Being a caregiver for my daughter means that when people come up to us and have questions about Adrianna and her disability, they often ask me what her diagnosis is. I do not find these questions rude because I feel people are curious and when they ask, their curiosity will be satisfied and they will not spend their time staring at her and making her feel uncomfortable. However, if people want to know what my daughter’s diagnosis is, they should ask her. When they ask me, she feels as if she is just an oddity.

Q. What can society do today to stop discrimination against those with disabilities?

A. I don’t believe that our society intentionally discriminates against people with disabilities. People are generally unsure of how to approach or respond to anyone that has a disability. I think this is because as humans we shy away from what is unfamiliar or different. When the lines of communication are open, the stigma of a disability vanishes. People with disabilities or their caregivers don’t want to be shown favoritism nor do they want to be treated as insignificant. When we can vocalize our differences with honesty and tact, we become better humans. No one should desire preferential treatment based on a disability, nor should anyone give preferential treatment to those who are disabled. When people feel sorry for those that have a disability, they have lost sight of a very important fact: a person with a disability has determination and bravery beyond comprehension. For this, our society should be in awe. Instead of feeling sorry for those with disabilities, we should be proud and amazed.