Monthly Archives: July, 2019

Putting the “Us” in Inclusion

Selfie of Jeffrey VanDykeBy Jeffery Vandyke, Graphic Design Specialist

Having a disability shouldn’t define who a person is, where they can go, or what they can become, but for many of us with a disability that’s exactly how it feels.

We live in a country that’s thankfully progressed significantly in many areas (with much more still to be done) in achieving equality for various groups in recent years, which is fantastic, but with each step forward, its growing increasingly frustrating to see that those with disabilities are still being ignored on a daily basis. Whether it’s in the form of thoughtless design in regards to public spaces or the continued lack of representation of individuals with disabilities within the various entertainment platforms.

I feel as though individuals with a disability aren’t necessarily viewed as people, but more so as an after thought. It happens all too often, a business is listed as having accessible facilities, but once inside you discover that even though the arrangements may accommodate some, it doesn’t necessarily fit all… rendering a business (no matter how great it may be) as a negative establishment in the individuals eyes. Furthermore, reinforcing the negative self talk that many with a disability already battle, which is thinking of themselves as an inconvenience.

All in all, exclusion for members of the disabled community is becoming far too common a problem and needs to be addressed with greater frequency and met with the same urgency that other demographics concerns are met with.

As stated earlier, within this past century, we’ve seen dramatic changes in our society, which has led to some great strides forward, but we still have miles to go before until all persons with a disability have an equal chance to live the lives they choose, free from the barriers they face, both physical and metaphorical. It’s time that we not only become participants in the conversation for change, but we ask that you join us in our fight for inclusion for all.

After all, a better world for the individuals within the disabled community today, means a better world for those who will become disabled in the future, which will undoubtedly affect you or someone you love at one point or another.

Living Life is Not “Inspirational”

Selfie of Jeffrey VanDykeWritten By Jeffrey Vandyke, Graphics Design Specialist

Because I have to use a wheelchair to get around, my disability is very apparent. You may not know the specifics, but there’s typically a big visual difference between a generically designed wheelchair and those that are a custom fitted piece, which makes me standout like a single neon light in a dark room.

With this comes a wide range of responses from strangers… some unfortunately avoid you on sight like you have been infected by the 2019 version of the plague, others are thoughtful and present their best smile; but then there are also those well-intended, but less than impressive comments, which belong to the “I’m so inspired by the courage you display by in public” or something similar to that affect crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intent and I appreciate the encouragement, but let’s be real… I either go out in my chair or not at all. Life with a disability for many of us is no more of personal choice than the length of our finger(s), mole on our arms, or shade of our skin. We can either make the best of what we have or not, it’s completely up to the individual living with the condition.

See, all things considered when strangers tell me I’m an inspiration simply for being out and about, it feels as though there simply congratulating me for getting up in the morning. They know nothing about legitimate things I have achieved or had to overcome in my life that might actually qualify as inspirational. I’m seen by strangers as an inspiration because despite my disability, I’m still living life. The way I see it, anyone can choose to get up and live life despite whatever challenges they may face. That’s not what makes someone inspirational. The things they accomplish while living their life and facing the many obstacles it brings are what qualify them as inspirational.

A diagnosis or disability in large part is placed upon you randomly… no approval needed. Our only real option is to continue to live our lives as best we can. Is this feat inspirational? Perhaps, but please don’t confuse what we have to manage with what we do, WHILE we’re managing. If you are a person who is aware of some of our genuine life achievements, we will gladly accept an “inspiration comment,” but there is no need to point out how inspiring we are if you are only referring to our ability to live life like anyone else.

Behind every perceived celebration…is another’s nightmare

Selfie of Jeffrey VanDykeWritten By Jeffrey Vandyke, Graphics Design Specialist


Behind every perceived celebration… is another’s nightmare.

I understand that for many… the 4th of July and the many festivities accompanied by the eagerly anticipated closing fireworks present what is generally perceived as an exciting cap to a great time.

However, behind every smile, ounce of laughter you hear, and time spent enjoying company… also exist those that are struggling with numerous things today, such as PTSD, anxiety, startle reflex, etc.
Specifically in my case, (and in the cases of so many others who also have Cerebral Palsy) we have a unique neurological wiring, which generally results in an extremely sensitive startle reflex. The startle reflex (also termed “Moro reflex”), an involuntary physical response to unexpected sensory stimuli, is exceedingly common in children and adults with Cerebral Palsy. Although the Moro reflex typically lasts from birth to 3 to 6 months of age, this response generally remains into adulthood for those with Cerebral Palsy, due to the neurological differences present in those who live with the condition. To sum it up in the simplest of terms? We flinch at unexpected, loud sounds.

Personally, I jump at every sudden change in my environment. My body tenses. A seemingly uncontrollable surge of anxiety rushes through my heart as my brain works in overdrive to anticipate the next sudden sound, which causes my body to pulsate in anticipation, which is horrifying at times. All in all, the 4th of July puts an extra strain on all those who are battling something.

This, for me is extremely exhausting and I’m sure, many others would agree. Thus, I especially wanted to share this… not to make you feel bad or to ruin your festivities, but to give you insight into a common struggle that is typically left out of the conversation and to spread awareness on behalf of all of us.

With that said, Happy 4th of July my friends, enjoy the festivities.