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Perception wears more on disabled than disabilities

Published on Wednesday, August 13, 2014

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Ben Brewer and his friend, Miranda, celebrate her graduation from Bob Jones University.
 
 

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Ben Brewer and his friend, Miranda, celebrate her graduation from Bob Jones University.

 

 



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Kim Wooten and Michele Fowler, a former coach in the Mauldin Miracle League, exchange high fives as Wooten slides into home plate.
 

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Kim Wooten and Michele Fowler, a former coach in the Mauldin Miracle League, exchange high fives as Wooten slides into home plate.

 



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Kim Wooten takes her cuts with Michele Fowler teaming up for the at bat.
 

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Kim Wooten takes her cuts with Michele Fowler teaming up for the at bat.

 



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Kim Wooten, 25, graduated cum laude in 2010 from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Business Administration.
 
 

Kim Wooten, 25, graduated cum laude in 2010 from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Business Administration.

 

 



By Kim Wooten

Disability is a broad word.

Your perception of a disabled person may be of someone who cannot walk, talk, hear, see or think like normal people.

A disability can range from mental illnesses, such as bipolar, to orthopedic conditions, like arthritis and fibromyalgia, to neurological conditions such as spinal bifida and cerebral palsy and anything between.

Nearly 1 in 5 people in the United States has a disability, according to the 2010 Census. Individuals who have obvious physical challenges, which require a wheelchair or walker, have a difficult time in public. Just because someone is incapacitated doesn’t mean they are mentally handicapped.

The 2010 Census also reports people with disabilities represent more than $200 billion in discretionary spending and spur technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

I have my bachelor’s degree, married, and have a little girl and I still get talked to like I am five years old all because I’m in a wheelchair and unable to talk clearly.

People with special needs offered interesting responses when asked how they thought the public generally viewed them.

“I feel as though people think I will break if they touch me,” said Jill Willis, 21, a college student who lives in Greenville and has cerebral palsy.

Be a little extra gentle assisting the disabled but overall they aren’t fragile. “Treat a person with a disability with the respect that you would want given to you if you were in our position. If you have questions about our disability don’t be afraid to ask,” Jill said. 

Ben Brewer, 32, a Bob Jones University student, who also has cerebral palsy, responded differently. “I think some people assume that just because I am in a wheelchair that I am mentally handicapped as well.”

Joy Easterling, 29, has incomplete spinal bifida. “I think people tend to put all disabilities into one category and don’t understand how much they can vary,” Joy said. “They also assume that disabled people cannot live independently or lead otherwise normal lives.”

Julie Bond, former board member of the Mauldin Miracle League, a baseball league for special needs children, offered some perspective. “It depends on the person and the disability. In general, persons with physical disabilities are no different than people without disabilities in regard to their desires and things they want out of life. The difference is how those things are attained or if they can be obtained.”

All children don’t have mental challenges, emailed Michele Fowler, a former coach from the Miracle League. “I will never make the mistake of thinking that just because someone has a verbal challenge that they also suffer a mental challenge as well,” Michele wrote.

Skeeter Powell, a leader of Young Life’s Capernaum (ministry for special needs young people), said that because a person rolls, wobbles, or thinks or acts differently doesn’t mean they aren’t a whole person. 

I suggest you ask people what their disability is instead of staring at them. Despite having disabilities, many people live normal, successful, and productive lives with careers and families.

“Our society as a whole is programmed to babysit the disabled, not to understand and use their talents,” Bond said.

• About the author: Kim Wooten, 25, was born with cerebral palsy, which is a condition that affects her muscles and muscle control. She graduated cum laude in 2010 from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Business Administration. Wooten is married and has a 2-year old daughter.

 

 

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