When some people hear the word ‘disability’, thoughts of limitations come to mind—what a person can’t do, what they used to do and what they wish they could do. There is no denying that those thoughts are real. But that isn’t all there is to a disability.
Disability Horizons writer Tammy speaks to three disabled people who shine because of, or in spite of, something called a ‘disability’. They have not let their impairments and society’s low expectations hold them back.
Lynda McKinney Lambert, legally blind author and mixed-media artist
”Your stories and poems feel like I have walked into a beautiful dream.”
Lynda the author…
I have been crafting stories and poems full-time since I suddenly lost my eyesight in 2007 due to Ischemic Optic Neuropathy, which causes damage to the optic nerve. Before that, I was a professor in fine arts and humanities at Geneva College, Pennsylvania.
In my writing, I make use of past and present life experiences. My work draws upon my academic knowledge of literature, art and mythology and brings together my experiences with seeing and with blindness. I combine my highly-detailed memories of past events with my present perceptions as a person with sight loss.
My latest book takes the reader on a year-long journey through the seasons and months. Each chapter begins with a poem written specifically for every month. The poems take you into the world of profound sight loss in order to discover the subtle nuances and beauty of a physical and spiritual world.
Lynda the mixed-media artist…
I had to reinvent my world following my sudden sight loss. I had to learn adaptive techniques using technology for the blind. With this, I began to craft sculptural pottery that could be enjoyed by both blind and sighted people.
I have already had great success – within four years of my sight loss I had my first solo exhibition at a Pennsylvania museum gallery! I was also honoured for my winning work at the Awards Banquet in October 2016.
As well as my sculptures, I specialise in making talismans informed by my research on medieval bead work. After my first solo show, I continued to participate in exhibitions with my bead work. How do I do this? I use the Acrobat CCTV (an ultra HD magnifier) and thick magnifying glasses. I cannot see details or colours, so I work with no more than two colours at a time to avoid mixing them up. However, 80% of the work I do on a project is non-visual.
My sight loss has not prevented me from successfully continuing to participate in exhibitions – but my work reflects the changes in my life.
Hannah O’Brien, experienced photographer and aspiring businesswoman
“Despite all of the chaos and pain that chronic illness brings, I am determined to pursue my passions and to work towards achieving my dreams. I will not let my illness get in the way of that.”
I’m Hannah, I’m 23 and come from Devon, England. I’ve suffered from severe M.E (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) for the past 10 years, which means I’m now, unfortunately, bed/wheelchair bound. When I do feel well enough to go out, I get into my wheelchair to pursue my passion – photography.
Hannah the photographer…
I’ve been extremely passionate about this art form from a young age and my love of photography has only grown as I’ve gotten older. Over the years I have taken pictures on a wide variety of subjects exploring different genres in photography, including music, botany and architecture.
Recently, I developed an interest in portraiture. The majority of my photos are taken on my DSLR (a digital camera), but I am planning on incorporating more film photography into my work in the future.
Hannah the aspiring ethical businesswoman…
As well as being a photographer, I have also recently set up my own ethical business called ShenaniganzUK! It sells hand screen-printed organic clothing and accessories. You can take a look at my work on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ShenaniganzUK)
Despite all of the chaos and pain that chronic illness brings, I’m determined to pursue my passions and work towards achieving my dreams. I won’t let my illness get in the way of that.
If you’d like to check out my photography or get in touch, here’s a link to my photography website – http://www.hannahobrienphotography.org/
Amanda Perla, founder of NextStep Orlando
“I was told to accept what I could not change. Instead, I changed what I could not accept.”
About 10 years ago I had just turned 18, I had been dancing competitively for 11 years and I was a month away from graduating high school. But then, in a split second, my life changed forever. On April 21, 2007 I was in a car accident that left me paralysed from the chest down. I broke my neck and almost completely severed my spinal cord. I am now a C6 Incomplete Quadriplegic.
So instead of enjoying my graduation and spending the summer with my friends, excited about the future, I spent the six months at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta learning to use a wheelchair.
Because I showed no sign of finger function or voluntary movement below my injury, I was told that I would never walk again, or be able to live an independent life. When my insurance ran out, the hospital gave me a bunch of meds and sent me home. They told my mom to put me in a nursing facility if she could not take care me.
Unfortunately, this is the reality for most people living with a spinal cord injury, and it was my reality until I decided to do something about it – I started an organisation called NextStep Orlando in 2008 to help people like me.
The ultimate goal at NextStep Orlando is to help our clients regain function through exercise and to walk again. But more importantly, it is to increase their quality of life and decrease secondary complications that kill people in wheelchairs, such as pressure sores and heart disease.
Because of NextStep Orlando I have somewhere to exercise consistently. I also have a part time job, I live on my own, and I have started driving again. But the best part is the friendships I have formed with our clients and their families. It’s the joy of being able to restore their hope for recovery and the future after they’ve been told they have none. That makes it all worthwhile for me.
It also enables me to have adventures again too. I love trying different adaptive sports with the friends I have made. My favourites are surfing, water skiing and handcycling. I just registered for my first 10k race in November at Disney!
There are many people, just like Lynda, Hannah and Amanda who find ways to work with the ‘limitations’ of their conditions instead of overcoming or ignoring them. The key is to search inside yourself to find out who you really are, and to use your strengths to achieve great things in life.
By Tammy Ruggles