Giving Thanks…for a Disability?

DavidDuring the holidays, many people take time to reflect and give thanks. I am one of those people, and something I’m thankful for is my disability. Over the years, a majority of folks I know have wondered how I can be thankful for my disability. Now don’t get me wrong – if there was a cure, I’d be interested to learn about it, but the truth is that I AM thankful for my disability, and not just because I always get a good parking space.

First, I’d like to declare myself as a small sample in the overall population of people with disabilities. With samples, we can generally conclude that characteristics of said “sample” (referred to as a statistic) can be extended out to the population as a whole, plus or minus any amount of standard deviation.

This sample (me) has an uncanny determination to perform tasks just as a person without a disability would; only differently. And by differently, I’m referring to using assistive technology, which is an adaptive or rehabilitative device that people use to help them complete tasks (listening device, wheelchair, screen reader, etc.). In my case, I use a wheelchair.

As mentioned, I’m determined to perform everyday tasks just as a person without a disability does, and I’m so thankful that my determination to be independent drives me forward.

A person with a disability may evaluate tasks differently. That is simply because while we’re evaluating certain tasks, we’re thinking (strategically, of course) about how we’re actually, physically going to perform that task.

Let me give you an example… In the great state of Texas we have big, sometimes flying, roaches. We don’t like roaches, so we usually “eliminate” them with the bottoms of our shoe. In my case, “eliminating” the roach with the bottom of my shoe would require me to remove my shoe first. Depending on which side of my wheelchair the roach is on, I’ll turn my wheelchair slightly in the opposite direction so I can reach down and swat the roach. I determine that I should not put my brakes on in case I swing and miss the first time and have to chase it down.

This example shows how people with a disability are less likely to suffer functional fixedness; which according to Wikipedia is “the cognitive bias that limits a person to using an object only in the way it is traditionally used.”1

Although I’m a small sample of the overall population, there is evidence that people with disabilities do strive to be independent. In doing so, they may think differently and strategically evaluate how to perform tasks.

I give thanks for my disability. I give thanks because it has allowed me to develop some characteristics that perhaps I would not have if it weren’t for this challenge. It is the challenges in life that help us grow.

1 Functional Fixedness. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 14, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_fixedness

David Spears is a member of the Workforce SolutionsNavigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.



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