Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Disability Paradox

Are you familiar with the French Paradox? The French eat more of the richest foods in the world, enough to make your cardiologist’s head spin, and yet, they have an extremely low rate of heart disease. That is the paradox.

The question is why ? How could that be? There are lots of theories to explain this. It is because of the amount of red wine they drink. It is because they eat smaller portions or because they walk so much. Whatever it is, ‘good for them.’

Better than the French Paradox is what I call the Disability Paradox. That paradox is this: Many people living with a disability, with greatly limited physical ability, do the most amazing things. There are no studies to back up this claim and my evidence is purely anecdotal. But I have seen it over and over again. Hundreds, thousands, maybe even tens or hundreds of thousands of people who live with a disability, have the ability to do things most able bodied people would never do……or even dream of doing.

They run marathons, climb mountains, compete in the Paralympic Games and write books about their lives. They motivate and inspire us by their example. They do fundraising for organizations. They often are amazing parents, spouses and friends. These people have a disability and they make a difference in the world.

In January of this year, my wife, Gail and I attended the “Tournament of Champions” This event was hosted by the National MS Society and its purpose was to honor their biggest fundraisers from around the country. (HURRAY! We made it!) While there, we met dozens of the most amazing people, many with severely advanced MS and all of whom had done some fantastic fundraising for the association.

How could that be? So many people with such limited ability, who accomplished such great things. How did they do it? What was different about them? What did they have that enabled them to do so much…….so much more than most able bodied people?

My answers are only guesses. Perhaps because of their inability to do some things, the things they can do matter more. Maybe they don’t work and have more time to dedicate to doing these activities (often not the case). Maybe they care more about making a difference. Personally, I think it is because they care more.

I found a definition that defines a paradox as follows:

Person of opposites
A person of seemingly self-contradictory qualities

Maybe that does define a person with a disability. It sure does describe a lot of them for me. It definitely explains the paradox.

Certainly there are many able bodied people who also do amazing things and I know a lot of them. My observation is that they care more too. Imagine a world where everyone, whether able bodied or not, cared even more, participated more and made more of a difference in this world. I suppose that if everyone participated, there would no longer be a paradox.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.


  1. This is a test only.

  2. Hi Michael,
    I found you through Carnival of MS Bloggers and will be adding you to my blogroll.
    Thank you for your positive perspective.


  3. Mmm...I do like that last line of yours. This is what it is all about isn't it? I like the way you write and I will be back to read more.

  4. Hi,

    Without people with disability the World will never be a nice place to live in. People with disability inspire and lead us in our journey through life.We may have everything physical but we are weak and they have everything mental and strong. They are the true leaders. This is my personal experience and testimony about our people with disability.


  5. Youre plagirizing what you call the disability paradox. Referrence Sol Levine...