Sometimes a normal man’s motivation is another’s limitation. Whether it has done wonders to the former or angst to the latter does little to shed light on how Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are and should be perceived.
It is of no secret that PWDs are cut from a different cloth. Some are able to still live a normal life, yet some tend to be more cut out from others. Individuals like Ms. Criscel, a Lasallian software developer under the Information Technology Services, are prime examples of how their condition has constantly challenged life’s day to day transactions.
Born with a congenital condition called Claw Foot Deformity, Criscel does her daily tasks and assignments in an electronic wheelchair. “Actually, I can still walk during college, but my left foot was inverted then. In 2011, after I have undergone surgery wherein I had titanium implant, that’s when I lost my balance. I started relying on a walker to move and just this December, I now have this electronic wheelchair,” explains Criscel (BS ICTM, 2012)
Just like any other PWD, Criscel believes it’s normal for society to feel indifferent about people like her, which is why a solid support group is necessary to keep emotions intact and dreams in place. For others, it comes through the form of loving family members or trusted friends, but she found hers in her mother. Unable to walk properly, she is aided by her ever-loving mother who’s been with her since day one.
Criscel shares, “Nung college ako, she [stayed] with me here. Kung anong oras yung class ko, hanggang matapos.”
While many see her story as one that is truly inspiring, it’s exactly that kind of distinct and dissimilar treatment that sees them reject and disagree with how special society treats them. Usually, people tend to put so much effort in patronizing or romanticizing PWDs, but being too sensitive with them may send mixed signals that may result to self pity and insecurities that hinder their potentials.
For people like Criscel, it is better to let them do their own thing just as how other normal people do. “I try to [be inspirational],” Criscel tells with giggles. “For me, being an inspiration is living a normal life just like everyone else.”
Criscel is not the type to demand special treatment and has her own set of friends. On a deeper sense, it is more than proving that she can do more. Instead, Criscel feels that she has to learn something new everyday in case her life would turn out like a routine—just like everyone else.
According to her, “I see it more as a blessing because here [in DLSU], I’m not being viewed and treated as someone different but as someone who’s just normal. It builds my self-confidence when they talk to me and treat and recognize me just as the same.”
Breaking the stereotype
The greatest desire for PWDs is a touch not too far from the ordinary: To be handled and treated like any other person. Criscel wishes for society to view her as a regular person that just had to take a different path, yet still ended up at the same destination. But even when some would choose to treat her distinctively either by way of special treatment or neglect, to actively choose the high road was a decision cultivated and strengthened over the years.
She explains that she doesn’t demand special treatment and ignores those who discriminate or look down on her. After 28 years of going about her life with the disability, she learned to accept herself.
However, acceptance and overcoming insecurities did not come overnight. “I have to take it upon myself to know what I want, where I am good at, and try to channel my energies
Blessing in the breach
Grasping life and making sense out of it is not as simple to people like Criscel. Her younger self was a captive of fears, more vulnerable to frustrations, and her thoughts were clouded with “What ifs”. As she has risen through the years over her self-doubt, Criscel has no other way to look at her life than a blessing.
“I never look at it as a burden just as I do not want to become a burden to other people if I use my disability as an excuse to lead a bad life,” she says. For Criscel, it’s a matter of perspective. Living in her condition taught her to celebrate small victories, to have something to be happy about, to have a new story to tell everyday, and to value patience and waiting.
“I don’t think anything was ever served to me easily, but that is life and that is how we learn and where we grow wiser—through the difficulties and struggles that will toughen us all the more,” she adds.
Choosing to be an inspiration
More often than not, though outwardly blessed with so many talents and competences, it is not unusual to see other people like Criscel living lives thought to be filled with insecurities and self doubt. Being born so diverse has left others to feel that they have so much more left to be desired.
Thinking greater than herself, however, Criscel believes another of her life’s mission is to remind everyone, regardless of background and situation, that the unthinkable is always a thought away and whatever one has is, by itself, more than enough to reach the unreachable.
As proverbial as it may sound, Criscel says with absolute affirmation, “Just don’t give up. Don’t forget to remind yourself that you are good enough. Ano pang meron ka or wala sayo, you can do anything and anything is possible.”