I never grew up thinking I had a disability – in fact, I don’t think that word ever came into my mind.
Sure, there was that time I had to use a skipping rope in primary school, or tie my shoe laces for the first time. And maybe when I had to use a knife and fork to cut a steak at dinner, or carry more than two bags of shopping that I was made to think I was – am – perhaps, a little different.
But it was just the way it was.
I had to play tennis one-handed, catch a ball one-handed and learn to play a musical instrument with one hand.
I was one of the fastest touch-typers in my class at school and could beat anyone at Mario Karts. I later realised my preference for Nintendo over Play Station was because I found their oddly-shaped controllers usable with one hand!
When you can do so much, you tend not to remember the things you can’t do.
It may have been a little nerve-racking to hammer in a nail to make a box in woodwork, but what was my other option?
You figure out how to do it.
The first sense I had of ‘disability’ was probably when my parents set out to buy our first family car.
I was 14 at the time and the prospect of learning to drive a few years later made mum and dad think they had better choose an automatic over manual. They didn’t.
When it came time to learn there was a nervous wait on what the RTA was going to say.
I was sent to an occupational therapist and had to take an instructor on a drive to be assessed. First in an automatic, then in a manual.
In what would be one of the most liberating experiences, they judged my ‘disability’ wasn’t going to hamper my ability to control the wheel and change gears… and I needn’t call them again.
Being allowed to drive a manual car may seem like a small victory, but for me it was one of my greatest life achievements – still is.
I look at my fellow ambassadors and other people with disability and am amazed by who they are. Their stories capture a narrative of personal triumph – doing things they probably should not be able to.
I’m not sure I fit in such a category.
Rather, I see my story is the success of people around me and their attitudes to a kid with only one hand.
I have only known my parents, my family and my friends as being able to look past my disability.
Mine is a story about fostering an environment where occasionally dropping things is ok, where using my chest to balance a cup of coffee is standard procedure… and where it’s not confusing – or uncomfortable – to shake my hand.
Well, we’re almost there! 🙂