Robert Hensel has Spina Bifidia and is a well-known advocate for the disabled community. He is a poet and the founder of Beyond Limitations Week. Robert Hensel holds the Guinness World Record for the longest wheelie, rolling 6.178 miles! Robert Hensel has inspire many in the disabled community, myself included.
I can definitely relate to Robert Hensel’s quote. Throughout my life, I have encountered people who make assumptions about my abilities because they could not see past my disability. Even now, at the age of 24, sometimes people talk to me like I am a child. Some people don’t talk to me at all, asking my mom or caregiver questions about me while I am sitting there. I have a stutter and there are times it takes me a while to get everything out, sometimes people walk away before I say everything I had to say.
As a child, there were times in school when my abilities were overlooked. I remember one time my mom was directed to the classroom for cognitively disabled children when she dropped me off midday. The receptionist just assumed that I had a cognitive disability simply because I was in a wheelchair.
In high school, I took a news class. I was pegged to work mainly in production. I was not used often for interviews or news casting. I will admit that my verbal and acting skills are not up to par, but if given a chance to practice and improve I could have developed. Limits should never be placed on any child, especially children who already face extra challenges.
When I was in in 5th-6th grade, my best friend’s dad, Tim Zahl, was able to see past my disability. He knew I loved sports, especially football. Mr. Zahl coached football and found a place for me on the coaching team. He even named a play after me, called the Hunter Special, which resulted in at least one touchdown! Not only did this make me a part of the team, my parents were able to sit on the sidelines and cheer. Mr. Zahl saw not only my passion, but also my ability.
Individuals with disabilities are more than a medical chart, a mobility device or a preconceived idea of abilities. We are real people, with real lives. We feel, we love and we hurt. Everyone, despite their disabilities, has the ability to make an impact on others.
The important thing to always focus on is another person’s abilities and what they can and do contribute to the world. See abilities, not disabilities!
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’
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