Physically Handicapped in Perspective
OTHER THAN POLITICS, 30 July 2012
by Charles Mercieca, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service
The preamble of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) starts with the following words: Since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. The human mind differs from that of animals in the fact that is it capable of planning and plotting as well as of improving and progressing indefinitely. As far as the physical characteristics are concerned, both humans and animals share more or less the same identical qualities.
Overcoming Personal Obstacles
Those people who are physically handicapped in any way whatsoever, may still perform excellently as everyone else. We have many examples of this reality in the history of our earthly community. Recently a video was circulated of a young girl in China who was born without fingers in her right hand. Yet, she studied and learned piano to the extent that she could give pubic concerts to the admiration of all. A young man who was born without both hands and legs became highly educated and emerged to become an excellent speaker.
In recent months a video was circulated of a young lady who was born without arms. She was very determined to pursue her full education and she succeeded so well that she could do virtually everything she wanted by using quite impressively her legs. In fact, to the surprise of everyone she managed to secure a license not only to drive a car but the pilot an airplane as well. This vindicates the saying: When there is a will there is a way. In brief, the physically handicapped have same human hearts and feelings as ours in no lesser way.
We should always approach the handicapped of some kind or another as though they were physically in perfect condition from every aspect. They like it and they appreciate it and that is the way they would want us to view them. This would make our communication easier to handle and more enjoyable to pursue. In my dealings with the handicapped I always was amazed about their sense of humor in most of the conversations I had with them.
During the decade of the eighties I had the opportunity to spend six months as Associate in Education at Harvard University. I was offered a variety of places where I could stay but I did not find any that really appealed to me. Shortly afterwards, I was asked to make some proposal. Without hesitation I said: I wish to stay with a family that would need my help and services. Within hours I found myself in the house of an elderly couple who had a 38 year old son that was quadriplegic who had no proper control over his arms and legs.
Joy of Assisting the Handicapped
His father remarked saying: Are you really sure you would want this job?
He said: You will have to wash him every morning, shave him, dress him, give him breakfast and put him in his wheelchair. Then take him outside to be picked by special car to be taken to hospital where he works everyday helping doctors to carry things on a tray from one office to another. He was very popular especially that he was much faster in moving around on wheels than on foot. His wheelchair worked with a battery which he controlled with his left hand.
All nurses and people around him liked him and they did not approach him like he was a handicapped person but they dealt with him like he was 100% normal. Of course, his speech was very normal and he used it very well. This helped him a lot as he was very fond of joking and teasing others, especially nurses. He also liked to eat in restaurants a lot. This means I took him out very often especially in the evening after work. From that time I approached the handicapped like they were fully normal. And they all liked it immensely.
Once he asked me to take him in the basement of the hospital where there was a big party for nurses. When they saw him coming toward them driving the wheel chair which worked on battery, some of the nurses came rushing to him and got him a bottle of beer, which he liked very much. But, instead of taking it, he refused it saying: I cannot take it because, as you see, today I am driving and I do not want to be drunk! I do not recall in the months I spent with Bobby that he talked with anyone without joking and making those around him laughing.
One evening I took him to a restaurant. As we entered he stopped me saying: Let me see who is in this restaurant, and looked around in every corner. Then he whispered to me saying: Look at that corner up there. Do you see those two pretty girls eating by themselves? I said, yes. And he stated: Take me to them and stay silent. I want to do all the talking. He said he never saw them but they looked very attractive. As soon as he reached them he said: Hi! My name is Bobby Burroughs and I work at the local hospital. Do you mind if I join you? The two ladies looked excited and replied: With great pleasure. Come over.
His conversation with them lasted for a little over one hour and they looked so fascinated with him. I noticed they treated him like he had no disability at all. Many may not realize this but in general, the handicapped want to be treated like they were physically 100% normal. From this six months experience with Bobby I learned a lot about the handicapped. Since then I have met with many handicapped individuals but I always approached and talked to them like they had no disability at all. Each time they all felt instantaneously at home with me and quite a few instances they joked and had a very good time.
Sensitivity and Compassion at Work
In view of what has been stated we may draw some appropriate and intelligent conclusion. No matter how physically pitiful they may look on the exterior, deep inside they have a human heart that is very sensitive and even compassionate. The best way to make them feel happy and at home with you is to greet them like they were fully normal. It would help, if opportunity offers, to even make humorous remarks about anything that would seem appropriate at the moment. Of course, you do not have to do this unless it comes naturally.
Over the past 20 years I met with many handicapped during my extensive travels around the world. Thanks to Bobby I became friends with most of them shortly after I came across them and I had a very good time in a number of instances. It really does not make much of a difference as to whether the handicapped happen to be children or adults. As stated earlier, they all have human hearts that are somewhat sensitive. They all look for some kind of understanding and compassion as well.
On the whole, they do not expect us to approach them with pity and sort of sadness. On the contrary, they want us to approach them with a friendly attitude and to communicate with them like they were friends for quite a time already. Today, we notice the Olympics for the handicapped which bring tens of thousands to watch with excitement and admiration. Once a handicapped sets up the mind on anything there is nothing that one cannot perform. As stated earlier, when there is a will there is a way.
In conclusion, we have a variety of handicapped, which means quite often we would need to adopt a somewhat different approach. However, once we become convinced that the handicapped are psychologically normal people in no lesser way that we are, our ability to deal with such situations becomes more natural and more spontaneous. Once we develop the habit of dealing with the handicapped properly we would love to be with them as often as we can. They tend to be a source of true joy and pleasant experience.
Charles Mercieca, Ph.D. – President, International Association of Educators for World Peace, Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education, Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament.
-Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University.
-Hon President & Professor, SBS Swiss Business School, Zurich.
-Member, TRANSCEND-A Network for Peace, Development and Environment.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.