INTRODUCTION



I have cerebral palsy. It manifests itself in a speech impediment and a general lack of coordination. The coordination problem prevents me from walking or using my hands for anything but the simplest of tasks.

In December, 1975, I could not do very much for myself except get around in my wheelchair fairly well. By August, 1976, I could handle most personal tasks unaided. The only major task left for me to master was feeding myself. That was a tremendous change for me in a relatively short period of my life. What it took to bring about such a transformation was someone to make me realize that I could do much more for myself. My determination to better my situation didn't hurt either.

Until that time, the people I met were amazed and impressed by the few things I could do for myself. When I met Dr. Elmer, however, he was not fazed by my "accomplishments". He just wanted to know why I was not living up to the potential he saw within me. After my first encounter with Dr. Elmer, I decided to do my best to realize that potential - to become as physically independent as possible.

This book describes the circumstances, reasons, and decisions that led me to become a person of relative physical independence. In one sense it is a philosophical book. It reiterates some of the arguments as to why a physically disabled person can live life more fully if the motivation to be as physically independent as possible is present. It is also a practical book on physical independence and the physically disabled. A large part of the work is devoted to methods and aids I use each day. I have seen, read, and heard many things that pertain to the independence of disabled people, but not many dealing with the practical methods that could be employed to bring about that independence. An example of this situation is that, upon reading my first draft, professionals dealing with disability as well as parents of disabled individuals have invariably wondered why this information has not been available before this time. It is. It is just very difficult to find.

Some such materials available. A primary source for these are the independent living centers now established in many cities of the United States. As far as I know (my experience is limited to Houston) these independent living centers do the best job possible of disseminating information. They are hampered in this effort, however, by a chronic lack of funds. Consequently, the information cannot reach a great number of people who would benefit.

Above all, this book seeks to make people think. You may be saying, "Well, I'm pretty smart. I can think for myself." That's how I felt in 1975. I was 26 and not far from obtaining a bachelor of science degree when my thinking was abruptly questioned - by professionals as well as myself. I discovered that, if I truly wanted to become independent, my thinking had to undergo a radical change. People go through enough trauma in their lives without having to deal with the mind-boggling experience of realizing that a major part of their thinking needs to be revamped. No one should have to be 26 years old before they can start to learn the lessons I began to learn at that age.





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