10 December 2023

Don’t DIS my ability

I see my story is the success of people around me and their attitudes to a kid with only one hand.

Close up of Laurie as he points to the camera with his left index finger

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.

Laurie points to the camera with his left index fingerI 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! 🙂

Originally published by Don’t DIS my ABILITY

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  1. People are remarkably adaptable – impose a physical limitation on them and they’ll find a way to get around it. As for Nintendo over PlayStation, you dodged a bullet there!

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