Chances are good that if you don’t deal with significant physical disability on a regular basis—whether your own or that of someone you care about—you rarely, if ever, think about all the amazing capabilities that your more normally-abled body affords. This is perfectly understandable. We all live our own lives, and it’s usually only in the face of jarring change or loss that we pause to reflect on what we have, or in some cases had. It can be tempting, then, to view occasional encounters with the disabled as though they somehow exist for us—as though their challenges were nothing more than a reminder of our health.
The truth, however, is that we all live with limitations. Some are physical; we have bodies that are contingent and finite; and some are circumstantial, such as the limitations imposed by socioeconomic status or the relative equity of the government and institutions where we live.
Writer Josh Barry is a freelance journalist and runs an entertainment website where he has interviewed a number of celebrities. He writes regularly about his interest in all things related to the British show-biz scene. He has a BA in Scriptwriting for Film and Television and a Masters in Writing for the Media, and writes with the clarity and precision of a man who cares deeply about words and language.
If all you had to go on were his words, you would never guess that Barry has severe athetoid cerebral palsy and does most of his writing with his nose on an iPad.
A person is not their disability.
Barry is not his cerebral palsy.
He is a person like any other, with interests and abilities, hopes and dreams all his own. Over the past nine years, he’s written an autobiography about his experiences, and hopes to "raise awareness of other people in [his] situation who despite being different, can achieve their dreams and aspirations."
Josh Barry is not his cerebral palsy, and he is not exceptional any more than each and every one of the seven billion plus people on this planet are exceptional (they are!). Barry is blessed with a support system that recognizes how much he has to offer the world and provides him with the tools to engage the world with language.
All people—regardless of where they live, what their level of ability is, or how many resources are available to them—ought to have the opportunity to share their unique talents and gifts with the world. People who, like Barry, have stories that need to be told.
This is why we at SIL LEAD are so dedicated to continuing our work of foster literacy to some of the most vulnerable populations around the world, and why we were so thrilled to have been named a winner of the Book Boost challenge last April, which provided us with the resources to expand our efforts to increase book accessibility for the visually and otherwise impaired. It’s not about checking a box so that we can feel good about ourselves without having to dwell too long on our own gifts and abilities. It’s not about us at all.
No, it’s about acknowledging that much of what we have and much of what we are able to do is the result of circumstances beyond our control. It’s about admitting the truth: that people like Josh Barry have just as much or perhaps more to teach us about the world than anyone else.