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What is 'normal'?

By Harvey Ross, Independent Living Services Coordinator

There seems to be a large portion of our population who believe people with disabilities don’t contribute much to society and that we are not capable of living “normal” lives.
I would question that with, what is "normal"? Is normal growing up in a two-parent household with a dog, cat and two cars in a suburban area? Or is normal growing up in poverty where you and all your siblings share one room, no one has a car and you live in public housing?
Normal has changed for me. For the first half of my life being a person without a disability was normal for me. The second half of my life has been with a spinal cord injury, which isn’t going to change, so now this is my normal.
People with disabilities still hear others say things like, “America has no use for cripples.” I honestly believe that many people who don’t have “disabilities” don’t realize that having a disability is not a choice. Disabilities can come from a birth defect, car accident, a slip and fall, infection, aging, surgery, etc. so this idea about people with disabilities aren’t or can’t be productive members of society is ludicrous. I and others I know are very much so productive members of society. We are mothers, fathers, athletes, professionals, educators, etc.
There’s a saying that goes like this: “People fear/mock what they don’t understand.” I witness this on a daily basis when I encounter people who are amazed that I do the same stuff they do even though I have a spinal cord injury. It’s all based around perception which for the majority of us is molded solely by society. There has to be a bigger concerted effort not just by the disability community but also the non-disability community to bridge the gap and become one.