Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thank God I am not disabled!

I hate the word “disabled”. It is the word used most often to describe a person who lives with a disability. But there is a big difference between the two.

A bomb or an engine gets disabled, rendering it useless, non-functional, unable to perform. I am not disabled. I am a useful, functional human able to perform thousands of tasks….and I have a disability.

Our world is getting much better at making this distinction, but we are not done yet. I hope that you will join me in my crusade to change our language and change the way people feel and think about people with disabilities.

I wrote about this more than 4 years ago and felt like it worth sharing again. I hope that you think so too.

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My father said something to me that I will never forget. He said “You are not handicapped. You may have a disability, but you are the least handicapped person that I know.” He went on to explain that a handicap has entirely to do with a person’s judgment about a disability. This includes the person with the disability as well as the observer.

Are we just talking about semantics? I don’t think so. I think that there is much more to it than that. The language we use not only defines us and how we relate to our disabilities, but also how the world sees those of us who live with a disability.

Am I handicapped? NO, unless you consider a handicap an advantage given to others as they do in horseracing or golf. What are some of the advantages that I enjoy? I get better parking spaces, I get right through airport security and everyone wants to take me to Disneyland so that they don’t have to wait in long lines to get on the rides.

Am I disabled? NO. To call myself disabled would be to say that there is something wrong with me as a person. I am a fully functioning, living person who, among other things, has and lives with a disability. I lead an amazing and incredible life, filled with love, family, friendship, adventure and romance. There are plenty of able-bodied people living in this world who do not have the life I have or the ability to think, feel or communicate as I do. That is their disability. Mine is that I don’t walk so good. (There are other ‘less visible’ conditions that I also have, but the world doesn’t see those.)

I also have an advantage. That advantage, what I have learned from living with a disability, is gratitude. Like most people, it was easy to take my good health for granted. Now, I don’t. Now, I cherish every ability that I do have and do much to preserve those abilities. Do I still take things for granted? Probably, but it is certainly less than before.

0Most importantly, I have discovered that there is a direct relationship between the gratitude I feel and the happiness I enjoy. Feeling and being grateful have become the keys to my waking up happy every day of my life. I consider that an advantage.

Hmmmm.......If a handicap is an advantage (like golf or horseracing), then I guess I do have one. Lucky me!

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


  1. Michael, your father was so right! No disability here. You clearly enjoy all good things in life that matter! A loving family, friends, wonderful children,the ability to appreciate life and all that it has to offer. In addition, you and your beautiful wife Gail, give more of yourselves to causes that matter than anyone we know!! I get tired just thinking about what your days are like!! You both have the "glow" of "knowing" what is good about every day in life. You can teach us a few things, Michael, since it is so easy to get caught up in the every day routines. We love you Michael .... Rosa and Mark

  2. Thank you for the stregth you give in every message.
    I love this post, yes, we are definitely not disabled in any way, we have this handicap which is an advantage to see what else life can deserve...

    Thanks for being you!

  3. Thanks for sharing Michael. This is great!