The Early Years – Part 2

Many of you may be wondering; what is my disability? The medical term for my disability is [left side hemi-pelagic.] Simplified, I am partially paralyzed on my entire left side. My left leg is two inches shorter than my right leg. The shorter leg causes a noticeable limp. My left arm until my thirties was bent at the elbow and wrist. My fingers were in a partial fist and could not be moved to straight without assistance. I have a large scar on my scalp from the traumatic brain injury suffered in my accident. I fell out of a second story window [twenty-four feet] head first to a concrete walkway.

I do not remember anything about the fall. I spent a year and a half in the hospital recovering from my injuries and receiving therapy. I recall having to wear a leg brace with a special shoe to help strengthen my leg muscles, and a helmet to protect the scarred area on my scalp which was rather soft. I received physical therapy on a weekly basis. The therapy was extremely painful but helpful.

As I look back comparing today to the past, I do not recall ever having a family or personal discussion with my parents or any authority figure about my “being crippled.” Today parents and others in people’s lives are better equipped and willing to have discussions with the person about “their disability” I implore you to seek the best available emotional, social, psychological, and any other assistance available for the person and yourselves to enable everyone to be whole and understand the gravity of the challenges ahead.

Parents, family members, and others involved with a person with a disability, I beg you to educate yourself on all aspects of the disability that are currently available. I urge you to have open, frank, honest discussions with everyone involved. Always remember a person with a disability is a person first. This person has the God given right to live life to their fullest capability and up to their expectations, not anyone else’s.

I was the youngest member of my family. Most of the tools given me to live, survive, and thrive were from my siblings and parents. I applaud, respect, honor, and love my family. I have great empathy for my family because they have suffered mightily in assisting me to “be.” They did not have or seek the proper tools to raise a child/sibling that was “crippled.” The choices were “mainstreaming me as a child”, or separating me with other crippled children. They learned and tried teaching me life’s lessons through the lens of “non-crippled people.” Everything being taught was through the “able-bodied” view. Two examples are buttoning a shirt and tying one’s shoes. Able-bodied persons use both hands to button a shirt. I use one hand and can button a shirt twice as fast. To this day probably due to the lack of full finger dexterity in my left hand, I don’t understand the way able-bodied people tie their shoes. The bow thing makes no since to me. After hundreds maybe thousands of attempts I adapted the able-bodied way of tying shoes to fit my capability. I was on the playground during recess. I was in the fourth grade and nine years old. This was one of the proudest moments of my life. So much so, I ran to find my brother and show him his teachings finally worked. He would no longer have to tie my shoes for me. I showed him how I did it twice. I doubt whether he ever understood how I tie my shoes.

I was “crippled,” but I was not dumb. I believe my accident resulted in my having a unique ability working with numbers, and an excellent memory for verbal information. I was advanced a grade level in third grade and tested into advanced classes for the eighth grade. I was selected for band in the 5th grade because I was a good student. The only instrument left was the trombone. I learned to play it, but it was large and too heavy to carry back and forth to school on the bus. The abuses and harassment I experienced were physical, emotional, psychological, mental, and sexual. Yes, it happens in the Black community.

Kenneth Brown is a business owner and Disability advocate and consultant. He welcomes reader comments. He can be contacted at or 612-518-2155