I've been thinking for a long time about doing a blog about being disabled and anything and everything that goes along with that. I could never decide if it was something people would be interested in or that I could get attention or support for. Recently I've realized that's not the real reason to do a blog but to support and hopefully get attention to disabled people as a group, Still I couldn't decided. And then a few weeks ago, I saw an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the reality show hosted by Ty Pennington. The show was in Georgia with the Sharrock Family, Michael, Cindy and 9-year old Patrick who has brittle bone disease or Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). Patrick has a pretty severe case of it: Patrick broke both his legs in the womb. Although he can walk, it's difficult and he cannot go fast or far so wheels are better. Patrick is very small for his age because like MAS, OI affects a person's stature and he can very easily break a bone or several. The really remarkable thing about Patrick, though, was his smile and his spirit both are big and bright! He is a very happy child and is as active as he's allowed to be. Right now he's home-schooled but his mom and dad are hoping to send him to school in the future.
Patrick and his parents really impressed me while I was showing the show. Children like Patrick deserve a future to look forward to and a society that welcomes them and lets them in. That's what helped me decide to start this blog. Right now, getting a basic job for a disabled person is difficult and if you don't have family to rely on or money somehow, there isn't a lot of help out there for disabled people to live so you're probably going to have to work. Most people want to work anyway, it feels good to be able to support yourself and make your own money. There are inspiring people with disabilities to look to for courage and hope.
Patrick did a public service announcement during the show. It was about how he's just a regular kid. There were some of other kids in the announcement who had various illnesses and disease and one child who didn't have anything. They were all happy and smiling and I thought how great it would be to know they were able to keep the smiling throughout their lives!
The people behind Extreme Makeover: Home Edition learned that Patrick was a fan of Atticus Shaffer who plays the youngest son on the sitcom The Middle. What I didn't know is that Atticus also has a form of OI! I think it's fantastic that he's an actor on a prime time TV show and he has a rare disease.
When I was growing up there were very few disabled individuals performing in acting roles on TV or in the movies. It's fantastic to see more and more people with disabilities getting acting jobs for which they are completely qualified. ***Kevin McHale who plays Artie on Glee is fantastic and now only does he act but he sings and dances, too! And Zach Anner is a stand-up comedian with cerebral palsy who has a travel show on Oprah's new OWN network.
These individuals with disabilities have some extra special talents and are a fantastic source of inspiration. I used to know a guy in a wheelchair who wanted to be an actor or a musician but just complained there were no roles or spots for disabled people or any available roles went to able-bodied people. I hope he's aware that, at lease now that's no longer the case.
My hope is that these individuals, simply by doing what they love, will impress upon other people that disability really is just a state of mind and, when given the opportunity, disabled people can excel at whatever they want to do.
*** It was just brought to my attention by Emma from the U.K. that the actor, Kevin McHale who plays Artie on Glee is NOT disabled. Before I wrote ths post, I went to the Fox Network website for Glee and read Kevin McHale's cast page. It's written as if he is Artie the character he plays and includes a story about how he became disabled, how he feels about it and how he has managed to be a dancer using his wheelchair. No where on the page does it say the actor is not disabled. I misunderstood what I read. I really appreciate Emma bringing this to my attention. One of my greates annoyances is the use of able-bodied actors in disabled character roles when there is a talented disabled actor available for the role, which there almost always is. Hollywood, the film and TV industry and more has long been guilty of failing to hire disabled actors for roles and other positions.