Disabled: incapacitated by illness, injury or wounds.
From this description of the word disabled in Webster’s Dictionary, it is easy to discern that anyone, anytime, anywhere could become disabled and need assistance.
I have been disabled since I was 2 years old.
My disability is a result of illness. In 1953 I was one of the youngest of 58,000 cases in the last polio epidemic in the U.S. In 1954 a vaccine was discovered and polio was soon gone in America. But there was a whole generation of people left disabled and needing assistance in many ways.
The polio virus left me with irreversible damage to my body as it attacked my central nervous system. I was left with some totally and some partially paralyzed muscles in both legs and overall muscle weakness that makes moving my body very difficult. I live my life in an electric powered wheelchair from the time I wake up until I close my eyes again at night. I drive a beautiful specialized van that is a gift from God and His people. It accommodates my chair and compensates for my lack of strength. Not much stops me from getting around except a 4” curb or blocked access to a handicap parking place, ramp, or curb cut.
Our Disabled War Heroes
In our country today there are thousands of men and women who have served in our military and have returned home with war wounds. Many are profoundly disabled. I believe it is our nation’s responsibility to provide them with everything they need to help them adjust to their new reality of living with a disability (Romans 12:10). This includes respecting handicap accessibility wherever they need or want to go.
Our Disabled Older Generation
Another vital segment of our population dealing with disabilities is our precious older generation. They are living longer but still may need help getting around. If a person lives long enough, they may experience loss of strength and mobility and require assistance. God tells us we are to honor and respect the generation before us (Matt 19:19). We must honor them by being respectful when they need handicap accessibility.
What You Should Know About People With Disabilities
As you can see from the few examples I have mentioned, a large part of our country’s population is in need of assistance and accessibility. You can also see that potentially everyone could be disabled and need assistance at some point in their lives, including yourself. So it is in the best interest of everyone to learn how we can help those with disabilities to stay mobile and independent, because nobody wants to be disabled. Here are a few things I wish people knew about having a disability:
- I wish everyone would realize how vital curb cuts, striped areas between parking places, extra wide parking places, and ramps are to someone in a wheelchair (or with limitations) to be able to navigate in and out of a building.
- I wish that able-bodied people knew that people with disabilities want the same opportunity to participate, be independent, and live their lives as “normally” as everybody else.
- I wish more people who build churches understood that people with disabilities have the same desires to attend, participate, and serve in their church as anyone else.
- I wish that more automatic doors and ramps were maintained properly so that people with disabilities are able to utilize them.
- I want church folks to know that when they are designing specialized handicap seating in their worship centers, that the disabled want to sit with their families and friends, not off in a “special” section by themselves. Church buildings need to be accessible to all, and God’s people should be first to voluntarily take care of their members and visitors to their buildings.
I realize people who don’t deal with a weakened body or a disability don’t know firsthand how their actions or inactions affect the disabled. But everybody can learn to be considerate and kind (1 Pet 3:8). As a person with a disability, I always appreciate your help. I am thankful for your thoughtfulness when you ask.
My Hope For You
I hope no one is ever unkind to you or someone you care about, simply because you need a handicap parking place.
I hope no one ever makes you feel like a burden because you need help in order to participate in an activity.
I hope no one makes it harder for you to participate because they don’t care, or your desire to participate is unimportant to them.
I hope no one ever makes your struggle harder because of their thoughtlessness, selfishness, or uncaring attitude.
Finally, if you are blessed with a healthy body, please remember to be grateful to God for it, because in a blink of an eye you too could need that special parking place.
If I never meet you in this world, I’ll see you in the next—the world that has no disabilities!
Debbie Jourden is first and foremost a follower of Christ. She lives with a lifelong disability and is passionate about protecting handicap accessibility for all those who require it so they are able to live a full, independent, and productive life with dignity. She is Mom to Gabe, Mother-in-law to Lisa, and Grandma to Chris & Caleb. She is also the facilitator of Ladies Sunday morning Bible Study, Sunday night small group, and Celebrate Recovery small group. In addition to all that, Debbie runs two small businesses from her home in her power wheelchair. She is a student of prayer who learned to really pray and trust in grief after the suicide loss of her husband and youngest son. She’s still learning.