Sam and I met one day in the Accessibility Resource Centre last Winter (because it took until my fifth year of university to identify as a student with a disability, and then make a bunch of friends in the ARC). Not long later, a shot put lesson possibly happened on the floor one afternoon [see picture]. Another day, we went to the gym, where (God knows why) Sam had me chucking a medicine ball at him repeatedly while I did bosu supermans and yes 97% of these throws non-intentionally hit him in the man parts. I’m not even trying to make myself sound nice with the non-intentionality because seriously, I am not good at accuracy. Also one day we explored Toys R Us, then a thrift store, to find a stuffed pig to make him fly.
Anyways, there’s my back story [stories?] about Sam.
Now it’s his turn to tell you his own story–many aspects which he and I have parallel views on even if we didn’t know it yet. Thanks, Sam!
I am Sam. Sam I am – without the joys of green eggs and ham.
I was born in 1990 with Myelomeningocele – commonly referred to as Spina Bifida. Medically speaking, it is a defect in my spine that has rendered my legs rather useless, and has left me confined to a wheelchair. However, thanks to my parents and my upbringing, my wheelchair was rather invisible to me until Junior High School when social classes become more important.
While my preamble makes disability sound like a horrible thing, it actually has taught me some important life lessons that simply cannot be taught by another person. These lessons include the power of sport, the importance of community, the strength of advocacy, and patience.
The first lesson is advocacy. This lesson is two-fold; one for knowing how to advocate for your person and the other is to advocate for a better life. While they seem all the same, the later is to advocate for a society that benefits all. Advocacy and patience goes hand in hand because while you know what’s needed to change for full inclusion of all members of society, you consciously know it isn’t going to happen today, or tomorrow, or this year. It’s hard to advocate for change when you can’t see it, but it remains an important feat as change wouldn’t occur without those efforts. The advocacy for one’s person though is a more gratifying form, as results are generally seen and noticeable. While becoming a product of Child and Family Services in my late teen years – I learn this lesson rather quickly. There, a system, which is designed for my protection, was attempting to charge me, a paraplegic from the waist down, with assault for kicking someone. Clearly, I couldn’t let this pass by.
Patience is another thing that I’ve learned, and although a lot of it is learned through advocating for better accessibility, the other aspects in life that have required it is in health and in love. Medically, things don’t always go according to plan – and usually, it is just out of your control. Love is the same way. It takes a special person to accept a disability and to love the individual for who they are. Society is too caught up with the media-influenced attributes and preference isn’t given to the person for who they are. And although this special person comes along, you still need to be patient with them as it takes time for them to learn and to understand – and that time we generally undervalue.
Sport is another huge part as it gives a person with a disability an opportunity to tangibly achieve something that is comparative to their able-bodied counterparts. Athleticism is a measurable attribute, however, the comradery that comes with disabled sport is equally important. Here, there is a community that is entrenched, and willing to support you in many ways. You are now one in the same, and that is incredibly powerful.
We often look at the negatives of disability – the what we can’t do, or the what ifs, or the what it could’ve been. However, looking through a lens of how disability can shape an individual is an intriguing perspective. Here, lessons of love, understanding, caring, comradery, patience, can embody these people. However, the comprehensive understanding of these lessons doesn’t make an individual exceptional – but instead, just simply shows the desire to have a good life. Disabled or not, we embody and share those desires. I share these lessons because disability isn’t just negative – it has become a part of my identity. Without my disability, I am not sure if I would be as humble as I am today, or if I would be as accepting of people who face comparable adversities.
So when you see Sam I Am wheeling down the street, pushing with all his might with groceries in tow – just remember, they are just as heavy sitting down as they are standing up.
Sam is a business administration student about to complete his final year in his degree. Sam can occasionally be found singing and playing the piano in front of downtown Winnipeg establishments while waiting for the bus [except not now because they removed most of them. The pianos, I mean], but more often right now you’ll find him with a tennis racket. Sam is a multi-sport athlete (it’s a long list, but let’s just say he’s working at getting me out for wheelchair tennis, basketball and para-athletics. And I’m sure sledge hockey when the city freezes over again), and is active in promoting wheelchair sport to the community.
You can connect with Sam on Twitter at @samunrau–and, Sam has just started a blog so new that nothing is really on there, so you should probably go Roll Along With Sam–even if a suspenseful ride at present!