Finding an independent lifestyle through disability mobility
In gaining understanding of the mobility of people, we come to a better understanding and appreciation of all people
It is generally assumed that having a disability hinders the ability to live independently because of physical limitations. However, having been born with cerebral palsy, dealing with the difficulties that come with having a disability has been part of my daily routine and the fact that I cannot walk does not have much effect on me as some may assume. In fact, I am able to live an independent and active life that is not too different from anyone else.
The common misconception is that someone who makes more use of assistive devices has a heavier condition or limited mobility than someone who is not. For example, more people are inclined to have the impression that someone using a wheelchair is more physically limited than someone using crutches and people are encouraged to make use of their mobility if there is any. Although there is some truth to the fact that someone's mobility level correlates with their need for assistive devices, it is not always the case. I have found that sometimes relying on mobility devices enables people to live more actively even if they are able to function without them.
You might assume that I am confined to a wheelchair because I use a wheelchair for the majority of the time. The truth is that I can walk with canes or a walker but prefer to a use a wheelchair for long distances. I find using a wheelchair to maneuver around campus more practical because it allows me to move from place to place freely and safely in a timely manner. I have attempted to walk around campus with my walker but it is much more time consuming than using a wheelchair so it limits my ability to go to work or class on time and prevents me from making spontaneous plans. For me, choosing to use my wheelchair over my walker is similar to how you might prefer to drive to school rather than walk because it minimizes the time of their commute. In the same way, there are times when I prefer using my walker. It is more convenient for me to use my walker than my wheelchair when going out with friends because my walker is more portable than my wheelchair.
Also, using my wheelchair as my primary means of transport makes it possible for me to live my daily life with minimal dependence on others. I do of course require more help from people compared to the average person but choosing to start using a wheelchair on a regular basis has opened up more opportunities for me. If I didn't have my wheelchair it would be difficult for me to live on my own and complete daily activities as efficiently as I do now. My hope for this post is to illustrate that even a person like myself with a disability can enjoy an active and full life beyond the physical obstacles faced. I have learned through having cerebral palsy that there is always an alternative way to accomplish something even if it seems out of the ordinary. I also would not be able to live such an independent lifestyle without the people who support me and allow to be as independent as possible. I have learned that sometimes depending on someone or something, like a wheelchair, can in turn enable us to become more free and independent.
(Editor's note: Mayuko Majima is a graduating senior at the University studying psychology and Substance Abuse Counseling. After graduation, Mayuko hopes to continue studies in these fields and eventually enter the helping field.)