On Health and Disability

By Guest Blogger Jennifer Crumly

I’m standing with my trainers and friends outside of the gym after watching some great fights from another rival gym. We are saying our goodbyes when my trainer asks where my car is.

“Oh, it’s over there in the disabled spot,” I reply nonchalantly.

Another trainer becomes wide eyed and asks incredulously, “WHAT? It’s where??”

“Over in the DIS-ABLE-D spot, “I respond with a bit more emphasis.

“That ain’t right man, that just ain’t right”, he grumbles while shaking his head.

“Hey, I’m a disabled American. Achondroplasia is covered under the ADA. I’m just a very active and HEALTHY disabled American,” I proudly respond.

Still shaking his head he again says, “That ain’t right, that just still ain’t right.”

Why is it, that the general public, have such an aversion to associating disability with athleticism? Why are the two subjects atypical, or worse, incompatible? Does a disabled person need to be unhealthy to be considered truly disabled? Do they have to have no positive outlook on life? Do they need to just give up and not try? Ok, I’m starting to go off on a tangent, my apologies.

I once heard a non-disabled friend of mine ask out loud, “Why are there handicap parking spots in front of a gym? Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

First, it’s disabled not handicapped.

But then I thought about the statement for quite a while, as it normally takes a longer response time for me to come up with something resembling sensible. I thought, on the surface, I guess it might appear odd to the average community, but no, it is not an oxymoron.

Take, for example, the Paralympics. All of the participants are disabled individuals who are excellent specimens of athleticism. And amongst our own group, let’s take a look at the Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA). Again, all participants are disabled individuals and there are some serious athletes among them. Some of them can bench-press three times their weight. Others can run marathons and compete in triathlons. And then others are those crazy fun participants in CrossFIT and INSANITY, and all of whom are in top form, meaning, healthy. So here we have a bunch of healthy adults with varying disabilities, running (or wheeling) around on a soccer field scoring goals, and when they are finished, most of them go back to their cars, some of which parked in the disabled spot. Is that wrong? No.

Several months back I was at my boxing gym and I looked over to the corner, where the free weights are. There, working with the free weights, was a fit, middle-aged man, in a wheelchair. One of our trainers was putting him through an upper body circuit. Being the typical hyper-observant individual that I am, I stared at him for several minutes, watching him go through the routine. To be honest, I might have had my mouth agape, like a sea bass, as I ogled. How polite of me (sarcasm intended). That right there is the reason we need disabled parking spots in front of the gym. How else would this man have been able to complete his upper body routine, if there was not a disabled parking space with a ramp onto the sidewalk to allow access into the building? This healthy man who is disabled was overcoming the stereotype, the misguided belief that disabled individuals cannot participate in sports, or lead healthy lifestyles. As I made my way over to the changing room, I passed by the two of them, the trainer said hi to me, and I said hi back.

I turned to the man and said, “You have excellent form.”

He responded, a little out of breath, “Thank you.”

I love having the general public see us in gyms, participating in marathons and lapping people in the pool. I think we are doing a great job in teaching people that we can be just as athletic and just as healthy as any non-disabled person. It’s important to make that association, not only for us, but for future generations of individuals with disabilities. So the next time someone gives you an odd look, as you emerge from your car, parked in the disabled spot while carrying a large gym bag, just smile and give them a thumbs up, or whatever feels appropriate.

About the Guest Blogger

Jennifer Crumly is a writer, author, boxer and humorist at www.pshtotally.com.

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