the lost boy(s)

September 23, 2015

i’ll be the first to admit that for several years I was floundering – hell, there are still a few days when I feel that way. Having an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), you have a basis of comparison. I can not speak for other people but, personally, it was really tough at first. “Re-learning” things is frustrating. Eventually, I adjusted – it took a long time.

Despite what some “experts” and literature say, I believe there is no set time to accept the situation. There is a prescription of stages for some structure but there are no hard-and-fast rules – it varies with each individual and some may go an alternative route. Sure there are steps one can take to accelerate the process but, ultimately, it comes down to the individual. We are all, after all, different. For some the “click” is nearly instantaneous; some, sadly never get there; but for most of us, myself included, we fall somewhere in between – the passage of time helps ease us into our “new” lives.

At first glance, we may seem different but we’re very much the same. People often fear or are uncomfortable with what they don’t understand – that’s only human and a natural reaction. We think 13 is unlucky because cavemen could only count ten fingers and two feet; and what was beyond this was simply unknown – I wonder what those who had a different number of digits thought. While exposure is not the end-all and be-all, it certainly can help in building the requisite empathy.

Why must we hide away the differently-abled in dark shadows? Are we ashamed (we are partly to blame for accepting this)? Or is it too hard? I understand why for heritage buildings the ramps are at the back or it’s difficult to use the toilets – for newer structures, there’s no excuse not to be accessible. You can easily tell if it’s merely for compliance – not a whole lot of thought was put in it. Forget incidental visitors, what about prospective employees? Dignity is more than access but being able to support one’s self? It’s true what they say: you can’t legislate good behavior. That said, sometimes laws are needed to level the playing field.

I’m not big on quotas but as anyone in management can attest what isn’t measured does not count – sometimes we need targets to benchmark effectiveness. Activism can grant you a seat at the table but true advocacy is needed for you to be willingly invited to sit. I’m not saying that one approach is better; you often need a mix and a multi-pronged method – as the saying goes, if you only have a hammer then all problems look like nails.

I do not pretend to know everything or that my experiences are universal (they may be similar to some) but am open and gradually learning that it is important and I’m entitled to say my peace and give my side of the story.

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