Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Attitude Adjustment

Rich Fabend

The radical physical and mental changes I went through following my accident were overwhelming. My mental rehabilitation lagged behind, slowed by two major thoughts. I had retired seven months prior, at age 55, looking forward to spending the years ahead pursuing the recreational activities I enjoyed so much. One of my biggest concerns adjusting to my new life was the belief that I would not be able to return to the activities which provided me with quality of life. I also feared my most productive days were behind me and I would simply exist for the rest of my life. The change in my outlook began during a recreation field trip to the Denver Zoo. I was accompanied on this field trip by my daughter and two grandchildren. As I watched my grandchildren running around and listened to their questions and the talk of others around me, I began to realise I still had much to share.

The ongoing process of mental recovery was greatly influenced by my former association with the martial arts and Project Adventure. The martial arts stress the mind body connection, focusing one’s mental energy and looking at issues as challenges to be solved rather than problems with which to be dealt. Project Adventure (PA) “… is a challenging outdoor personal development and team building activity which usually consists of high and/or low elements. Low elements take place on the ground or only a few feet above the ground. High elements are usually constructed in trees or made of utility poles and require a belay (being a attached to a safety line) for safety.” (wikipedia.org/wiki/Ropes course). PA helped me understand what success and failure means, and I learnt about commitment and alternative ways of solving problems. The importance of the mind, the thought process and one’s attitude facing challenges became very clear to me. When trying to accomplish a task, I believe it is human nature to rely on a method which has been successful in the past. This often encourages us to use only limited means to accomplish a particular goal. If I asked 10 people, most anywhere in the United States, to catch a fish chances are almost all of them would grab a fishing pole since this method has been successful and therefore widely used in our culture. Initially when dealing with the challenges placed on people by a disability, I think they often try to solve problems using the same skills they used before their impairment. This approach can create extreme frustration and an acute awareness of the limitations placed on them by their condition. In reality, if we think about it, there are usually many ways to solve a particular problem. If I presented the same challenge of catching a fish to 10 people who were selected from different cultures around the world we would probably see a wide variety of approaches to accomplishing this task. Fish might be taken with a spear, bow and arrow, casting a net, using a gill net, with fish traps, use of hands (one hand method is called Noodling) or use of another animal like a cormorant. With this example it becomes apparent that there are a lot of different ways to accomplish a given task. So learn to think outside the box and experiment with different approaches.

My introduction to adaptive equipment began one day when I dropped a piece of paper on the floor. Because of my level of injury I was constantly dropping things and then having to call my wife or nurse to pick them up for me. I knew something had to change. How would my attitude toward picking up that piece of paper affect me? If I decided I could not pick up the paper, chances are it would foster a negative feeling of defeat which then could further my disability. It took me quite a while and involved a lot of failure and frustration to reach the point where I am today. If at first you don't succeed try, try again. How many times have we heard that? I have learnt over the last eleven years that if you have an open mind and an active brain you can always find different ways or methods to solve most of the challenges we face. It is just a matter of how much thought, time and perseverance you are willing to commit to the process.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Measure What Matters!

There are a lot of courageous people in Australia and all over the world that have treated disability as an opportunity! And it is an opportunity, an opportunity for new things, for new memories, for new experiences, new challenges and new achievements.

I would like to make particular reference to one extraordinary individual who has proved that anything is possible: Nick Vujicic. Nick was born in Melbourne without arms or legs and without any medical explanation as to why this was.
In his story Nick said:

"Having had an uneventful pregnancy and no family history to expect this condition, imagine the shock his parents felt when they saw their first born, brand new baby boy, only to find he was what the world would consider imperfect and abnormal."

Although Nick experienced the many challenges that come with his disability, he overcame this with a remarkable ability to do all the things that he wanted to, and more. In fact, Nick was nominated to receive the 'Young Australian of the Year' award in 2005 and has made more accomplishments then what are typical of a person twice his age.
Nick puts his accomplishments and victory over his struggles down to the people that have supported him:
"According to Nick the victory over his struggles throughout his journey, as well as the strength and passion he has for life can be credited to his faith, his family, his friends and the many people he's encountered during his life who have encouraged him along the way."

The most important thing that can be taken from his story is that our own heart and the heart of others are the tools to help us overcome our challenges, they are what makes us remarkable and unique.

One should never measure oneself according to how tall we stand, how much money we have, our possessions or how intelligent we are. The best way to measure ones self and ones ability is by measuring what exists within the heart.
Check out his story:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Introducing Guest Blogger Bill Forrester and Travability

Travability believes that travel should be able to be enjoyed by everyone. Sometimes it represents the fulfilment of a dream held for a lifetime, other times it may be a simple day out with the family or friends.

Three years ago the founder, Bill Forrester, realised that those experiences that we take for granted were not available for people with disabilities.

The information was hard to find and where it was available lacked the critical detail needed to make an informed travel decision. Bill, with Deborah Davis formed Travability to publish accessible holiday destination information with a mission to "Make the World Accessible to All" Travability is a member of the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

After all is said and done, a lot more will be said than done!

This quote is an all too reliable reference for some people with disability who are struggling to deal with the services and representatives of the Community Services Sector.

It is through the voices and stories of the disability sector that Australia may continue the journey towards understanding the needs of people with disability. Australia wants to recognise the rights of every individual!

And we would like to congratulate Australia for our efforts – the most recent news items have presented a very rare discovery of social change:

It seems like such a simple movement towards inclusion, and it is certainly an issue that has remained afloat for a length of time.

The federal government has announced minimum access requirements for public buildings built or renovated from the 1st of May 2011. There will be uniform building rules across Australia to end the isolation felt by as many as 4 million people who cannot properly use public facilities.

SHOPS, hotels and offices will soon be forced to widen corridors, install ramps and renovate toilets under new rules to improve access for the elderly, families with prams and people with disabilities. The rules will also include swimming pools, cinemas and common areas of blocks of flats (NB: information taken from an article from the Sydney Morning Herald).

Welcome to ACCESSIBILITY Australia!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Attitude, Attitude, Attitude!

Rich Fabend

I can only speak from my own personal experiences, sharing what I have learned and what I believe to be important.
Attitude, Attitude, Attitude I have become convinced over the last eleven years that attitude is much more important to individuals who are physically challenged than ability. To look on a new situation not as a problem but as a challenge needing to be met, may actually set one’s mind free of the mental restraints which prevent one from finding a solution.

Attitude towards the future will play a great role in how one adapts to any new lifestyle. I am sure there are many people who would look at me confined to a wheelchair and think that it is probably one of the worst things that could happen to anyone. It doesn't matter what other people think, what is important is what I think. I had little control over what happened to me but I have almost complete control over how I deal with my situation, and feeling in control is critical to progress and recovery. What I believe and how I handle the results of my accident will determine how I live and enjoy the rest of my life. I have good days and bad days but ultimately the control of my situation and attitude rests within me.

I know I have the ability to cope with what has happened to me, and I can decide how I will handle this and subsequent challenges I will face. The strength to deal positively with any challenge is in every one of us. I do not see myself as a person with a disability I see myself as being challenged. Christopher Reeve said "I refuse to allow a disability to determine how I will live my life. I don't mean to be reckless, but setting a goal that seems a bit daunting actually is very helpful toward recovery."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Introducing Guest Blogger Rich Fabbend

Richard Fabend, who is 66 years old, taught in the New York State public school system for 34 years, the last 10 in Special Education. He retired in July 1998. In February 1999, while on vacation in the Carribean, Rich was struck by a wave which drove him to the bottom, breaking four vertebrae in his neck and leaving him with quadriplegia (C6 complete). Rich approached his new daily life with Christopher Reeve’s philosophy; “I refuse to allow a disability to determine how I will live my life. I don’t mean to be reckless, but setting a goal that seems a bit daunting actually is very helpful toward recovery.” Rich was extremely active prior to his injury, he spent much of his time outdoors and was a licensed New York State Guide. He has returned to many of the outdoor activities that provided him with such pleasure prior to the accident. Recently Rich has begun doing some motivational speaking in local schools, trying to help students realise the personal strength that lies within themselves.

Rich would encourage each of you to face your challenges with an open mind and a positive attitude. Believing that something is possible is the first step in taking control of your situation. Allowing yourself to be sidelined by difficulties, frustration or failure is counter productive. Failure provides an opportunity for growth. Rich has found little in this new life comes without frustration, effort and sacrifice and that attitude is far more important than ability. With persistence, perseverance and trial and error, he believes we can accomplish many things that at first we think we cannot do.

Rich has developed a website that allows people with physical disability to access information on ideas about and instructions on making simple tools that could reduce the daily frustrations. For more information visit http://www.handihelp.net/

Friday, March 12, 2010

Welcome to DisCo: Disability Conversations

DisCo – Disability Conversations is a blog specifically designed for all things disability - people with disability, older people, carers, supporters, family members, service providers are invited to share there feelings, thoughts and voice in a collective online forum.

What experiences do we share? How can we change the face of society and spread the many voices within the disability sector without being muffled by culture?

I am the host of this blog, but I invite you to be my exceptional guests in an online venture to break the very barriers that restrict the speech of all things disability.

I hope to encourage a larger, more diverse dialogue. With the resources of the many minds that contribute to this online vision, these Disability Conversations may change the very face of tomorrow through information and story.

I work for a generic information service, IDEAS. It is easy for us to bring information to the people to enable independent living, but it is an aspiration of ours to hear as many stories and thoughts that circle around the word ‘DISABILITY’ as possible.

I welcome you to argue, match or approve of my many ramblings and should you have your own story to tell DisCo provides an optimum outlet. To share your story with the broader disability community contact me on 1800 029 904 or prmedia@ideas.org.au.

I would like to pay thanks to all the wonderful guest bloggers who have and will contribute to this blog. Your words are an inspiration and a wonderful starting point for a unique Disability Conversation.