How People See Me

Sometimes, I think about what it would be like to have been able-bodied my whole life. What would my life be like at this very moment? Would I be married, have kids and live in a house with a white picket fence? Would I have any knowledge about disabilities? If I saw someone in a wheelchair, would I be one of those people who just stare, intently curious, but not know how to react to someone who is physically different? This makes me think. We all make assumptions as human beings. But what are some things people assume about me and my disability that aren’t true?

When I meet someone new, I can always tell there is a bit of hesitation to start a conversation with me. After all, the wheelchair is very intimidating to someone who is not familiar with a person who has a disability. I feel like most people think because I have a disability, I live under a rock. This is far from the truth! I live a very active and fulfilled life, thanks to technology. Technology has allowed me to be able to drive a vehicle. Yes, I drive a vehicle from my wheelchair using electronic hand controls. Yes, I have a job that does not involve me to do physical labor. Yes, I travel and fly at least once every month. These are all things that people assume I don’t do because of my disability.

The biggest thing that people assume about me is that I can’t carry an intelligent conversation. This is 100 percent not true! Now, I might not have a master’s degree. But what I lack in my physical ability, I make up for with my intellect and my ability to have an intelligent conversation and problem solve. This ability was something I had to learn. I usually notice two things when I start a new conversation with someone who I have never meet before. First, I get talked to like a baby or a dog in that annoying voice. (You know the voice I’m talking about). Its only after talking with me for a few minutes. I notice their voice changes to their normal speaking voice.

Second, people assume my disability just affects my legs physically. On the contrary, my disability affects my arms and ability to shake hands and grab things. When I was younger and first diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, I went to a private psychologist twice a week. I was still able to play sports at the time and my disability was only in the beginning stages or progression. Truthfully, I had no idea why I had to talk to a shrink. Over the years, I learned a lot from my psychologist. I even worked for her when I got older, mentoring kids with physical and mental disabilities.

One thing she said to me only made sense after I took my last steps. She told me, “your mind is the most important thing you have.” I have learned this statement to be true. I may not be able to run a marathon or work out everyday like my friends and coworkers, but I leave an impression on you after you meet me that hopefully has an impact and possibly changes the way you look at people with disabilities. Hopefully, the next time that person encounters an individual who has a disability or is in a wheelchair, they look at the individual differently. Hopefully, they understand that we are all the same, no matter how we look. Our mind is the most important asset we have. As human beings, we should assume less and learn more.

About Josh McDermott: Josh is a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.