Jan 24, 2012 / by Alisa Hafen / No Comments

Generally, even well-meaning people who interact with folks dealing with disabilities, tend to speak to us kindly, but not as they would “normal” people.

It should be obvious that everyone has some sort of disability; many wear glasses, hearing aids or have other sensory challenges. Some are more dexterous than others. Some are as graceful as Fred Astaire, while others move as if they are mired in mud.

I strongly suggest that, in order to truly help, we have to see everyone –whether dealing with disabilities or not – as “normal”; at least in the respect that we have the same needs and feelings, as well as the same worth and value as anyone else.

More importantly, see us as people who can make incredible contributions. In order to truly accommodate a disability, we must incorporate the individual. When we feel we are a viable part of a group or organization, it can make all the difference in the world.

The barriers most disabled people face are monumental. It shouldn’t be about whether we can hold a pen or walk a straight line. For instance, when looking for a job, it should be whether we are qualified or not for the position.

You don’t hire a blind man to wait tables or a deaf person to answer phones; but we are employable.

My dear friend, Art Berg, was injured right before he was to be married. After pronounced a quadriplegic, he interviewed for jobs. While calling and trying to set up interviews, one employer was so impressed with his resume, that Art was offered the position right over the phone!

However, when he arrived the next day to start, they saw he was in a wheelchair, and suddenly, a “reason” was invented why they could no longer hire him.

I was fortunate. I had no idea what I would or could do after my accident. Previously, I had owned and operated my own landscaping business. That was no longer a possibility. I had a young family to support. The future looked dismal.

However, several months after my accident, I spoke in church to thank my neighbors and friends for all they had done. Someone from Las Vegas was among the congregation, heard me speak and approached me afterwards. He asked if I would come and speak to his company.

The rest is, as you say, history!

That was ten years ago and I now travel the world, spending time with thousands of people, showing them what is possible if you believe in yourself. I have the opportunity to encourage individuals to overcome their challenges, focus on their dreams, hoping to make them become a reality.