I did undergrad at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio (you know, near Wright-Patt Air Force Base where they keep the Roswell aliens) and the school has a tremendous commitment to assisting students with any impairment. The entire campus was connected by underground tunnels (great for a frosty Midwestern winter) and there was an office fully devoted to providing the tools and personnel to help hearing, sight, mental and motor impaired students excel in the university setting. There was one woman who was actually on a motorized gurney with a respirator and she had rearview mirrors. She’d jet down the tunnel and run your ass over if you weren’t careful – I think she was getting an advanced chemistry degree. My other favorite story is a kid named Chris who was paraplegic and in a wheelchair, we’d drag him out to the porch during parties for smoke breaks. One Halloween he came to the party with no discernable costume. When inquired what he came as he said ‘I beat up this crippled kid and stole his wheelchair.’
But a new story is added to that collection of irreverence when Glenda Watson Hyatt told me about trying to put groceries in her car in the parking lot and a woman was trying to help her and Glenda was trying to communicate that she could do it herself and really just wanted to tell the woman to just go to hell. Glenda is an adult living with cerebral palsy and has been blogging about her experiences as well as advocacy for assisted devices for full accessibility of the internet. Her new book I’ll Do It Myself is out in bookstores and ready to challenge assumptions people have about adults with disabilities. I interviewed Glenda about her experiences blogging and writing this book:
What has been the most rewarding part about writing your book?
While writing I’ll Do It Myself, I found the freedom to decide what parts of my life to share and how to share it most rewarding. I was in complete control of how my story was told. Knowing that I would be heard, perhaps for the first time, was also satisfying.
Now that the book is completed and is out, I’m enjoying hearing how my words have started people thinking about how they perceive their own situation and their own world around them. I have received handwritten notes and cards from readers, saying how much they enjoyed my book. These notes mean I have affected people in some way – that is my reward. That is why I worked so hard to write I’ll Do It Myself and to share my story with the world.
What is the one thing that people don’t get about adults with CP?
This is a somewhat difficult question to answer because cerebral palsy can vary so much in terms of abilities and functions affected, from very mild to extremely severe. Essentially, cerebral palsy is a crap shoot. However, people need to understand that every adult with cp is a person, an individual first; the cp is secondary. The disability does not define the individual; there is more to the individual than the cp. Many of us adults with cp have the same wants, needs and desires as adults without disabilities: relationships (dare I say even sex!), meaningful employment, financial security and our own home.
What is next for you and your work?
Since my book I’ll Do It Myself began as a dream when I was ten and has taken me thirty years to get to this point, I’m going to do all I can to promote it. Next quarter, I’m planning to do a Flash movie using childhood photos to put up on YouTube, to do some video viral marketing, which means I first need to learn enough Flash to be able to put my idea into action.
I’m also planning to develop an e-course "Accessibility in Action." Over the years, I have found that people have fears when interacting with those with disabilities because they simply don’t know what to do and they are too embarrassed to ask. I want to address those fears by providing practical information and a safe place to ask questions. The e-course would include topics like what language to use when referring to people with disabilities, tips for when communicating with people with disabilities, ideas for when choosing a gift for a relative/friend/colleague with a disability, suggestions for how to include a classmate with a disability at your child’s birthday party, and many other topics. My goal is to include hands-on and practical information that people can use in everyday life.
Meanwhile, I will wait for the seed of my next big dream to be planted. Perhaps it will be a movie based upon I’ll Do It Myself!
And, amidst all that, my husband strongly suggests that I take a break fairly soon before I burn myself out. I tend to agree.
How has blogging helped your life/work/book/outreach?
Oh, wow, blogging has opened more of the world to me! Because the written word is my language, blogging is something I can do – I can write posts, post comments and ask questions. Through blogging, I have met and become friends with some interesting and knowledgeable people. (Didn’t you and I meet through one of your blogs?)
I have found bloggers, for the most part, to be amazingly supportive. They are making my virtual book tour "40 Blogs in 40 (Business) Days" possible as I promote I’ll Do It Myself.
If I could find a way to create a steady income by blogging, I can definitely see myself diving even further into blogging.
What do you advise parents of children with CP?
By all means, parents should seek medical opinions and advice, but don’t take it all as gospel. Medical professionals tend to give the worst-case scenarios. Had my parents followed medical advice when I was young, I would have been institutionalized and, essentially, forgotten. I would not have had the opportunities that I did have. I would not have gone to a regular high school and then on to university, where I graduated with my Bachelors of Arts with a 3.64 grade point average. You know your child best. Advocate for your child. Encourage your child to reach his or her own potential – whatever that potential may be. In turn, your child will teach you amazing lessons.
Andy, thank you so much for hosting this appearance of my virtual book tour. It was awesome! I would like to invite your readers to join me for the remaining six weeks of my tour at www.doitmyselfblog.com.
Anyone can blog. In any language. With any amount of ability. You have no excuse. Unless you’re just a weenie.