In the past few months my heart has been touched by Patricia Ruiz and her dream to make this world a better place for a vibrant community – the physically disabled. She and husband Jim have a beautiful daughter, now 22, who is perfect in every way but one. She is in a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy at birth. That doesn’t stop her from lighting up the world with her quick wit, bright mind and perky personality.
The problem is that her world is limited by lack of accessibility. And she is certainly not alone. We just don’t see a lot of people who may be disabled because they are limited in where they can go. Patricia just launched a blog called Paws 4 a Moment written by her daughter’s service dog, Pepin, an English golden cream retriever. It’s both anecdotal and poignant. Check it out, www.paws4amoment.com. Hearing Patricia’s story caused me to be more introspective. I think of concerns we all should have, such as falling and becoming disabled. My family certainly worries about that with our mom being in her mid-90s! I’ve had many friends who have suffered life-changing falls, as I’m sure many of you have. Falling is now considered an epidemic in the age of baby boomers. I also vividly recall my tour of the Center for the Intrepid and the tremendous impact it had on me. So many soldiers return from war with serious injuries and must join the physically disabled population.
I set out to discover what is being done in our community and was very pleasantly surprised that we are quite progressive in our efforts to make San Antonio a more accessible place to live. My first investigative visit was with Judy Babbitt, manager of disability access office, Department of Public Works, City of San Antonio. Judy uses a wheelchair, but that doesn’t impede her in the slightest. She is a dynamic, positive-thinking person. The first lesson I got from her was a bit of etiquette, for which I am grateful: Don’t refer to a disability as a handicap. Don’t say people are wheelchair-bound, but rather use a wheelchair, which offers them liberation. Never refer to people as victims, which is a hard description to overcome; they simply have a disability. The disability access office has an etiquette handbook, an accessibility manual and much more.
Judy told me about the AccessAbility Fest that was held in October, the eighth annual event put on by Texas Public Radio. I called Cindy Alleman, corporate and community relations, to learn more. Some 4,500 people, young and old, attended! There were over 75 vendors that provide services to people with disabilities and lots of corporate participation for the day-long event. Check it out: www.accessabilityfest.com.
Judy also introduced me to Lizette Davis of AccessAbility Home Modifications. Lizette, an occupational therapist, is dedicated to “normal is relevant” for the physically disabled. It’s all about learning to live with ability instead of disability. Lizette is also involved with the Texas Fall Prevention Coalition’s A Matter of Balance program, helping seniors overcome their concerns of falling. I’ll end my examples with a grand one that is now underway. It is Foresight Golf’s The Valor Club at Pecan Valley, currently under development. It will be a fully contained accessible recreational and living community to provide a higher quality of life to a very special group of people who may be disabled. Initially, it was to serve our wounded veterans, but it will also serve all others who can benefit from this unique development. It will feature a fully accessible golf course, apartment complex, retirement campus, hike-bike trails, Olympic and Paralympic sports complex and youth recreation and sports facilities. The apartment complex is now under construction by HomeSpring Realty Partners. The Valor Club will be the first of its kind in the United States. Learn more by going to www.thevalorclub.com.
Let me conclude by making a call to action by companies. There are so many wonderfully talented people who would love to have a chance to prove themselves in the business community. Unfortunately, they may be challenged with a motor disability. Should their abilities be judged by their disabilities? I think not! So many physically disabled individuals have had to strive much harder than most and have developed a tremendous resilience for coping with the challenges of life they face daily. Does that deter their desire to aspire, or does it inspire them to conquer and achieve? I contend that anything is possible with the right attitude. We’ve recently experienced it. Now Gov.-elect Greg Abbott knew there was no mountain too tall for him to conquer as he ran and was elected to the highest position in the state of Texas.