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Chapter 17

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It’s Disability Awareness Month again. Last year, I wrote about how we should strive for Disability Un-Awareness instead. Simply put, this means that we view and treat people with disabilities the same as we would those who are able-bodied. As a side note, we should treat all people the same regardless of disability, skin color, religious affiliation, or any other factor that divides us, but that’s an entirely different topic.

Unfortunately, Disability Un-Awareness has not happened and I’m reminded of my disability (Cerebral Palsy) every day in one way or another. Sometimes, It’s my body that hits with a hard dose of reality when I wake up in the morning and have to wait for help with ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) to start the day. On other occasions, I’m made aware of my disability when, as a sports reporter, I call a venue only to find out that it was built before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, and therefore the press box is not accessible. In those cases, I have to try and find another assignment, and if I can’t, I don’t work that day and don’t get paid.

Sometimes other people unintentionally make me aware of my disability. I’m 39 now and it has been happening for as long as I can remember. For example, when I was young (less than 10), Mom was shoe shopping with my older brother. My twin and I were patiently waiting in the front of the store. An older gentleman asked my twin brother, “Can he have a piece of gum?”. I responded with a loud, “Yes I can!”. Even recently when out to eat with a group of friends a waitress asked them , “And what will he have?” , referring to me. Some things don’t change I guess.

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These types of situations crop up every day to remind me that my disability keeps me from doing things that other people take for granted. I used to let it bother me. “That’s not fair,” I thought. Over the years, however, I have come to realize that life is not fair and if you waste time waiting for it to be, you miss so many of the blessings you do have.

One of the biggest blessings in my life is my Chesapeake Bay Retriever Gabe. He is blissfully unaware of my disability. He doesn’t care that taking him for a walk means driving the golf cart around the farm while he bolts ahead at top speed instead of sedately walking next to me on a leash like a typical dog/owner relationship. In fact, I’m pretty sure Gabe prefers to race ahead of the golf cart with his top speed rivaling that of a Greyhound. I think the only time he slows down throughout the day is for some Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats.

If you would like to test your running skills like Gabe, I have the perfect opportunity for you. The Gaston Community Foundation (Gaston County NC) is hosting a Run/Walk in support of non-profit organizations in the area. Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats is one of those organizations this year.

While Gabe can attest to the fact that Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats makes delicious, healthy treats, they do so much more. They offer inclusion by employing those with disabilities in a world that all-too-often excludes them. It provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment of a job well done, displaying talents that are overlooked or ignored. Those are the kinds of things Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats seeks to make people aware of: Limitless potential instead of the limitations due to a disability.

In a broader sense, that’s what Disability Awareness Month is all about, too. It serves to shine the spotlight on and highlight the accomplishments of those of us in the disability community. Hopefully, it will be bright enough that is what others see instead of a disability.

Follow this link to find out more information, donate, or even join the Arin’s Good Girl Dog Treats team to run if you are in the area. 

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