My name is Alan and I am a T-3 parapegic from a car wreck in 1984. I am now 45 years old and have spent most of my adult life using a wheelchair. I grew up in a small town rural community in New Hampshire where everyone knows your name. So when I got back home after 5 months in hospitals, and spinal cord rehab where you learn to do everything over again from a wheelchair, such as getting dressed ect….Everything was a new challenge for me and at 22 years old and coping with knowing that I would never walk again. Everyone was real nice, but the stares, and questions began to bother me. After a couple of months of being home I didn’t want to go out in public anymore. Everytime I went to a store, there was always someone asking me questions about my disability and how I cope with it, and still the constant stares.
I couldn,t deal with it anymore, not to mention that at the time New Hampshire was not wheelchair friendly, and this was before “The Americans with Disabilities Act”. So I moved to Fort Myers, Florida where it was wheelchair friendly, because of the large population of elderly and retired people. I still get the stares, but after a while I learned to block it out, and went on with my daily routine of life. Also I think not knowing anyone in Florida helped in my adjustment to my new life in a wheelchair. I have now lived in Florida for 18 years and life has gotten a little easier as the years pass. Just recently I bought a small cabin in New Hampshire on the lake I grew up on. I am now spending the summers up there. Things are different up there now than when I left 18 years ago. Places are more accessible and people I new at the time of my accident are no longer around, so I don’t get the same questions over and over. I still get the stares, but I learned to block them out, and not let things bother me anymore. I guess what I learned in the past 22 years of living with a disability and using a wheelchair to get around has given me a new perspective on how fragile life is, and how it can be wisked away, or changed in an instant. So my advice would be is don’t let the stares, and the questions bother you. Just live your life to the fullest disabled or not, and try to educate the people you kn ow that just because someone has a disability doesn’t make them an attraction to stare at, and that we are still people just like everyone else and have a lot to contribute to this world of ours. Also no matter what your disability life will get easier with time, just as long as you keep an open mind, have a good attitude , and a good outlook on life. Thank You, and feel free to comment or ask me any questions about living with a disability.