This is Your Time Rwanda - Book on Rwandan Feminism and Resourcefulness

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Physically Challenged II

Part Four:
The Physically Challenged II

1000 words
By Karen Cole

I and my husband once worked as nurse aides at the first apartment building in the nation built specifically for people in wheelchairs, namely Center Park, which shares the same initials as cerebral palsy, one of the world’s most common severe physical disabilities. There is a huge United Cerebral Palsy Residential Center in Seattle, Washington, USA, and many people with cerebral palsy live at Center Park as well. It’s right next door to the Lighthouse for the Blind, and some blind people live in Center Park as well.

The legend of Center Park was the guy who made it up the stairwell in his manual wheelchair, got onto the roof, and jumped off and successfully died. Really, there was nothing to do at Center Park, except for gossip mongering and television. The most exciting weekly event was when the old ladies left on the communal charter bus to go get their ancient hair done at the beauty parlor, or once a week working in the arts and crafts room, needing to allow several days for your project to harden and dry.

Nowadays, thank God, disabled people have the Internet within easy reach. A life of contemplating suicide is no real life, don’t you think? That major problem with spending one’s time is now relatively resolved. But there are surely other such Civil Rights Movement problems to conquer, including renaming the entire thing something weird, like the Independent Living Movement. Actually, I’m just kidding; those are two separate movements. Black People don’t think in terms of their being disabled like “we” are, they consider themselves able and challenged only by social rituals such as being or not being hired and other such sociological problems. It is an entirely different thing, but there are certainly disabled African-Americans who need access to both of those movements. Learning disabilities - for one - are prevalent in every community in the United States. At Center Park, there was some discussion that I recall about this. Learning disabilities can preclude your being able to compete on the same level for a job, whether you live at Center Park or anywhere else. Life in there included many such learning challenges.

There’s still the most beautiful Adam and Eve garden you ever saw, which was focused on your being able to circumnavigate it in a wheelchair with ease. But they probably won’t let you smoke at Center Park nowadays, except for right outside the building’s perimeter. Smoking was “not allowed” - back in the 1980s. I’m sure they still let them smoke outside. The wondrous garden, a fairytale paradise of sorts, was looped around the building, and it but now lurks in my mind’s eye – it’s where two almost ex-heroes met, namely, my husband and me. I had saved a Black family once, and he had rescued thousands of people during his stint as a medic in the Viet Nam War.

We had both several times tossed our lives away to serve other people – and we both had completely forgotten that. He and I were personal care attendants, me in the home, and he in the hospital system. We were finally villains for a change with each other, and we “dumped” Center Park to get married and have an able bodied child. I went quite overboard to make sure she would be safe. So I am one of the “escapees” of Center Park, although I was never one of the residents. At the time I lived there, I wasn’t yet physically or mentally challenged. That would come later, when I was put on medication for depression, which did some bad things to my physical system and caused severe spasming and disability, most of which has now abated with me. Reggie has a bad back and some other minor physical problems, but he’s now semi-retired, and he can still perform his beloved landscaping and gardening without any real problems.

What you need to learn from this article is that even autobiographical stuff can make one very happy and content person happen. Anyway, this is really about Social Politics, and the way of the world is that even disabled people must suffer from losing one or more attendants at a time. Then, they get replaced by other ones. What truth this becomes is there is a job in politics awaiting you if you care for caring for other people. In short, disabled people need attendants, and this article advertises for the job. You can find it in the newspapers and on the Internet under “home health care aides” - and other such titles.

You don’t have to think of it as politics so much anymore because of the Internet. Also, it’s a nursing oriented job that can lead to wonderful factionalism among the compadres who gather and create new things that make absolutely this entire world into a wonderful place. Meanwhile, I know this is true, because I am now disabled physically - where I wasn’t before; it was going to happen anyway, and yes, I am now a professional writer. You too can do such terrific things with your life, such as writing for pay, and now all of we who are physically challenged have the WWW Internet at our polite disposal.

Isn’t life great, whether you’re disabled, handicapped, physically or mentally challenged, or not, when you have something to do? For example, although I have a minor physical disability and some minor mental difficulties, I am quite capable of being a freelance writer, copy editor, rewriter, ghost writer, author and illustrator on an ongoing professional basis. Therefore, you should consider my services, if you have a book manuscript or are preparing one for publication.

Thus ends my series of articles about our local Independent Living Movement and the Physically and Mentally Challenged people of Center Park, Seattle, Washington, USA.


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