Pete Cowley

I don't have a disability!

Well, perhaps that's not strictly true.  I do have tinnitus (ringing in the ears), the eyesight has never been great.  I'm over the hill and gaining speed ... but really these things are totally mild compared to what some have to put up with.

You're probably wondering why I am writing this story them (you're not alone on that!!).  Anyway I because involved with the DSF Network when Vicky Terrell asked me to help create a website for the Through the whirlwind conference she and a team of people were planning.  OK I thought, I can do that.  I was used to Vicky and her disability.  Can;t be too hard.  Yeah right!

So along to the organisers meeting I went.  Suddenly I was confronted by quite a few people some with obvious disabilities and some with hidden disabilities and some with no disabilities.  Ummmm ... tricky!!  Someone in a wheelchair who couldn't speak but could with a struggle write.  I felt really uncomfortable ... but why?  because I didn't know how to react, respond and was afraid of making some sort of gaffe that would offend someone.  So what to do?  flight or fight?

I recognised a decision had to be made.  Somehow that elusive wench wisdom must have been with me that night because I thought "I'll never learn how to feel comfortable, how to interact, how to be respond with others with different abilities if I don't stick it out".  So with that decision made I sailed blithely on.

Boy was I naive!!!!!

Looking back I see that I was taught so much about ... not making assumptions about what someone wants, needs, likes or can and can't do.  That some people are so completely integrated with how they are that this is how they are and they don't want to be changed (i.e healed or "fixed" thank you all the same")  That was a revelation!

I guess it works, all that quiet teaching of an "out of his depth normal!" beacuse one day wien I was in town, a youngish woman in a wheelchair has a bit of a mishap trying to get up the slope to the footpath and her wheelchair tipped over backwards.  A few people stoped to help and righten the chair but I had no qualns in picking up her legs and putting them on the foot plate.  Making sure she really was OK and then wandering off.

I owe my mentors a a great big hug of thanks!