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If You’d Just Hold Your Shoulders Back (You’d be Less of a Disabled Person)

Katinka NeuhofIt was one of those conversations between my mother and I that pays no mind to that fact that we are both mature women. It’s dialogue that played between us for many years, that freezes us in time, a dynamic I’ve tried, worked, struggled to shift over the years, but usually leaves me bewildered, winded and pissed.

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. How’s your walking?” she asks. She’s warming up, I can tell.

“Please don’t do this,” I hear myself plead.

“Your body,” she says, “leans forward much more than it used to. Your shoulders are much more bent forward.”

“Please,” I say.

“Why won’t you let me say it?,” she says. “Let me say it.”

“OK,” I say. And I put the phone on the table for a full 30 seconds while she talks.

“Did you hear all that?” she asks.

“Yes,” I lie.

“If you’d just hold your shoulders back,” she says.

If you’d just hold your shoulders back (you’d be less of a disabled person).

  — Katinka Neuhof, The Fabulous Adventures of a Four Legged Woman, 4leggedwoman.tumblr.com

The Imperative to be Abled: The Rewalk Exoskeleton
I read a MailOnline story about a woman named Claire Lomas who walked the London Marathon wearing a ReWalk exoskeleton. The device enabled her to walk, with arm crutches, the entire 26 miles over the course of 16 days.

Some of the verbiage in the MailOnline article is rather astonishing in its praise. The word “heroism” appears twice, and the word “heroic” once. She “conquered” the course, the article crows, after being “liberated from a wheelchair.” …

What is so heroic about walking 26 miles over the course of 16 days? And how is it liberating to wear a 7-pound suit that enables you to walk between one and two-and-a-half miles a day, only to leave you “aching with pain” and “struggling to stay upright”?

The adulation over the ReWalk device is just one example of the public shaming of people with disabilities, and it has significant consequences.

— Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, disabilityandrepresentation.com

Bleeding to Death
Gary PresleyThere’s something about nearly bleeding to death within a few weeks of a 70th birthday.

I’m in no mood to die. I’m productive. My brain seems untouched, or if anything, stronger and more focused and less rigid in its perceptions and too-quick judgments than it was when I passed 40, 50, or 60.

Funny thing, marking those decades bothered me little.

But 70 does. The average life expectancy is 77.6 years. Of course, that didn’t account for me driving around a blind curve on the wrong side of the road at night at age 16 with no car coming the other direction. Otherwise, considering my relative good habits — eating correctly, one sex partner, no diabetes, good blood pressure — statistics say a guy like me could expect to live to 85.

Except for that crappy wheelchair, respiratory insufficiency, ventilator thing … about which there are no statistics, only the casual “all things considered” from the medical professionals, which in turn is a quick window into why so many crips are antsy about the assisted suicide movement.

Back to the point, nearly bleeding to death: such an enterprise will change your outlook. About time, in all its slippery relativity. About being a self-aware being in this world. And about metaphysical faith, about being engaged in perceived reality one instant, and being a ready-to-decay hunk of biology the next.

— Gary Presley, www.garypresley.com

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