Throughout OT school, we have discussed the idea of whether disability is something that lies within the individual or if it is a result of the environment. It’s a riveting discussion.
Aimee Mullins has personal experience with this. She was a Division I track and field athlete at Georgetown, and is now an actress and model. Oh yeah, and when she was one year old, she had both of her legs amputated below the knee due to a congenital birth defect. Most people would say she’s “disabled.” But she doesn’t feel like she’s disabled.
Last year, Aimee was a speaker at the TED MED conference in San Diego, CA (TED is a nonprofit that distributes talks on a wide variety of subjects at http://www.ted.com/; TED MED is a separate organization that licenses the TED logo and focuses on medical and health care related issues) and, according to her recent feature on CNN.com, she “explored the concept of disability and talked about how overcoming adversity is something everyone must confront, in one way or another” (3/9/10).
This is her talk:
At the end of her feature article on CNN.com, Aimee said:
I’m not an advocate for disability issues. Human issues are what interest me. You can’t possibly speak for a diverse group of people. I don’t know what it’s like to be an arm amputee, or have even one flesh-and-bone leg, or to have cerebral palsy.
I don’t speak for such huge and diverse groups. What I’ve tried to do, what I’ve been fortunate to do, is to live my live and create my life as I’ve wanted to create it. To be able to live with such an autonomy has itself raised awareness.
You can read the entirety of her feature article on CNN’s website here.
Hopefully, more people like Aimee will continue to contribute to this kind of discussion so that we as a society can move forward in understanding that it’s not so much a matter of properly addressing the narrow category of “disability issues”, rather, these are human issues that require us to recognize that, disability or not, we must all overcome adversity at some point in our lives.