Many of us like to say things like, my disability does not define me, and I don’t think of myself as disabled, but really, just how far can we go with that mindset? I remember it was a big deal when I turned 40 and realized that since I was paralyzed at 20, my life could be divided neatly in half — 50 percent able-bodied, 50 percent disabled. Now that I am 70, I have to lay hands on a calculator to figure the percentage. Let’s see, 50 divided by 70 = 72.429 percent of my life I have lived with a disability.
Mathematically, for those of us with acquired disabilities, the percentage grows each day but will never quite reach 100 percent, even if we live to be 3,482 years old. In my case, on my 3,482nd birthday, I will have lived 99.426 percent of my life with a disability. And what of those of us who were born with a disability? If you have been disabled for 100 percent of your life, how can you not think of yourself as disabled?
I will let you in on a little secret. At the age of 70 I enrolled in an online class at a major university. It doesn’t matter what the subject is. The class is run like an intimate workshop. We started with eight in the class, and now we are down to seven. We meet once weekly for three hours by Skyping. We look at each others’ faces and listen to ourselves interact with the instructor and each other, and I would estimate that I am the oldest student by at least 30 years. I’m older than the instructor by about 20 years.
I’m also quite sure that I am the only paralyzed, below-the-knee amputee wheelchair user in