You remember that movie Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, in which the elderly white parents can’t accept that their blonde daughter wants to marry a black man (even if he is Sidney Poitier)? It was 1967, at the height of the civil rights movement, and marriage equality was one of the final bastions to cross, the true measure of acceptance and integration.
Same goes for disability rights, even today. Put ramps in your stores and grab bars in your restrooms, but how will you really feel if your son or daughter marries one of us?
It’s a question I know all about. I’m a lifelong quad, born with spinal muscular atrophy, married for 26 years to a nondisabled woman. To be sure, there are challenges (as in any marriage). Yet there are also distinct pluses. Honesty, tolerance, patience and uncommon intimacy, among them. Still, that doesn’t stop people from wondering, from gossiping. So, to set the record straight, I decided to ask inter-abled couples about how they cope, what they find particularly difficult, and what tips they have for others.
For a youthful perspective, I talked to Shane Burcaw, the 23-year-old blogger and author of Laughing At My Nightmare, and his girlfriend Anna, 21, a college junior. Like me, Burcaw was born with SMA. He uses a power wheelchair and weighs just 64 pounds. Living with his parents and younger, nondisabled brother in suburban Pennsylvania, he’s become a kind of unlikely Internet sex symbol.