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Finding independence

by Archives September 28, 2005

“Do you need help?” This sentence is heard many times throughout the life of a handicapped person, almost every day actually. There are many myths surrounding handicapped people, some of which will hopefully be dispelled in this article. There are also associations that can inform people about issues that affect the handicapped.

The War Amps is an association that was first created to help war veterans amputated during the war. Now the association also helps children who are missing one or more limbs. War Amps helps these children from a very young age, through to adulthood. They provide artificial limbs, or prosthesis, when needed. War Amps also encourages the children to do activities such as sports and will provide the appropriate means for children to get involved. They may provide a prosthesis specially created for that sport, or contact information to find an adequate place to practice the activity.

Many people think handicapped people are completely dependent on others. This is not true in most cases. Most find tricks that enable them to do activities like everybody else. Sebastien Robinson, a 21-year-old university student, has no arms. Even though people tend to think he can’t do much because of his handicap, he manages to prove them all wrong. He writes with his feet more skillfully than most people write with their hands. He is also a very good soccer player. With very minor adaptations he can live alone with no help as he does everything with his feet. A hook attached to the wall can help him put his pants on, or a brush attached to the wall in the bathroom can help him shower. Simple additions like this allow him to be much more independent.

Some handicapped people can drive with just slight adaptations made to their vehicle. Adaptations made to a vehicle are customized to suit each handicapped person’s particular needs, every adaptation is different. For example, they might put extensions to reach the pedals if the person is short, or put a handle on the steering wheel to allow an easier grasp on the wheel.

Some people believe that handicapped people should be completely independent. While they can do a lot more than what people give them credit for, there are things they simply can’t do. It is unreasonable to think that they can’t do anything, but it is also important to realize they can’t do everything. Handicapped people sometimes need help, and they will usually ask if they do. It can be annoying for them, however, if people keep asking if they need help. Robinson said, “It’s fine if they ask us once, but it can get really annoying if they keep asking again or saying ‘Are you sure you don’t need help?'” He is not the only one to hold this opinion.

Every year, the War Amps holds a seminar where children and their parents can meet and talk. The discussion helps people to learn of new developments that could help with their personal situation.

During their latest seminar, which went on from the 17th to the 19th of September in Sherbrooke, Quebec, many families were in attendance. Some families had been going to the War Amps seminars for years. Bonds are created at the War Amps seminars, and sometimes it seems like one big family.

While they are there, the members discuss ways they have found to deal with their handicap. People share ideas with others, who in turn pass on ideas of their own. There are sessions that are organized to address various subjects ranging from the use of computers to how to adapt your car.

Most members enjoy going to the seminars because they get to see their friends.

“I love coming here because I get to see friends I’ve known since I was little, and I get to pass on my knowledge to help the younger ones,” Robinson said. This feeling seemed to be universal among the older handicapped people at the seminar. Some become counselors because they really enjoy helping others. Whenever anybody has a question, they are ready to answer.

As a member of the War Amps myself since I was 4 years old, I have lived through many of the ordeals that other handicapped children and the War Amps have helped me immensely over the years, as they do with many children.

The fact that all the War Amps members helped each other was very impressive. If one person is missing his arms and can’t reach his plate, then another person who can will help him to get it and bring it to his table. They all help each other; to them it is only natural. However they will also stand back when help is not needed.

Often people misjudge the amount of help a handicapped person actually needs. Sometimes people think of the handicapped as beggars. If they are in a wheel chair in a mall, or waiting for the bus on a street corner, there is a good chance they will be given money as charity. This angers most handicapped people because it shows what a lot of people think of them. This was something that came up a few times during a session called “Teen Talk” where older children can talk about any subject they feel like sharing with others that they think others can help with or share similar experiences. Some people think the handicapped can’t get a job like everybody else and need to beg for money. If the handicapped person can’t speak, some think they are not smart enough to work. Of course, not everybody thinks that way about the handicapped people they see on the street, but sadly there are quite a few that do.

Handicapped people are as normal as everybody else, they just need help sometimes to do certain tasks and activities. Like other people, they like to do things themselves when they can. The best anyone can do is to just wait until the handicapped person actually asks for help.

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