Amputee, limb deficient, disabled, handicapped, differently abled, special, God’s children, thalidomide baby, war veteran, crippled, stumpy, deformed, birth defect, a burden, incomplete, helpless, gimp, freak…
Sometimes a name is used to hurt, sometime they are used because we don’t have any other word for it. Sometimes we have been programmed through years of hearing these words and we begin to think that that is what it is called. We may think a collection of letters, put in some order, are the words that now represent us. But they are just words and we represent ourselves.
I have been called all of these names and maybe more… but the doctors say I am a congenital amputee. Let’s look at that for a moment. Congenital means genetic from birth and amputee means a person with a missing limb.
Being born without legs fits the definition of how people see me but I’ve always felt weird calling myself an amputee. But what else can you call a person like me? That is why I came up with the boy without legs. I’m not an amputee, I just don’t have legs. And that is the only difference.
I wasn’t raised in a home adapted to fit my needs. I wasn’t treated as a special child, I did ride the special bus for a short time and I do have an adapted car but by no means does this make me special. Really it just means I have adapted to the body I was born into and to the situation around me.
I don’t know if that is as identifiable as handicap-able but it definitely is less limiting.
If I allowed people to label me with these titles it is easier for them to stick me in the box in their mind. It’s the same with anyone that we see as different or in the minority. We call homosexuals, “queer”, meaning weird or deviant. We call people of color thugs or welfare cases. And we even call people illegal aliens and their children anchor babies all in the name of some idea or perception that they don’t deserved to be recognized the same as us.
It is these limiting thoughts and these titles that keep people from achieving their potential. Not just because you have begun to believe what they call you but because the stereotype has set in so deeply in the minds of the majority that you cannot escape the trap of their perception of you. You are treated as less because they think they can treat you that way.
But I say there is a way to change it. Be an example. Don’t accept the stereotype, do not let people judge you without challenging them. Speak up against them and their ideas. Tell them, “I may be disabled, or a minority but I’m also a person first.” I may look different but that doesn’t make me any less of a person.
And when you learn to go with the flow and change to the situation around you, then you gain power and you gain the ability to go anywhere.
Some disabled people shrug off the notion that they are a hero, or an inspiration such as: Stella Young: I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much. But I think she is losing sight of what makes us all heroes. When we stand up to the expectation of the world around us and we excel or at least stand strong without being defeated by their low expectation then we are heroes to all those that follow us.
I am a role model to those out there that never saw a boy without legs on a skateboard and never thought he could be a man with a job, an education, a wife, a child and be a multi-sport athlete.
I am not defined by the ideas that they have in about what a disabled person can do. I am defined by how I hold my head high and do the things I want to do without caring what they thought they knew. I am redefined. And I am only limited by my imagination.
So what is in a name? Only the meaning you define. So define the words as you want to be seen not as other see you.
“I am Paco, I am adapting to the world around me. I am not defined by your narrow experience, I am living a totally original experience.”