As most people know, I was born with cerebral palsy, which means that I have never known any different than living my life accompanied by disability. There were many surgeries when I was young. I was in plaster body casts for months at a time. Not fun during any time of the year. In the summer, they were particularly brutal. Then there were the canes and the braces and the endless hours of physical therapy. I’m not complaining. It was just my reality. In my younger days, my disability was something that I hated. I didn’t like that there were some people who thought it was okay to treat me differently because of this characteristic that I couldn’t control. I didn’t like that my disability limited the number of things I could do on my own. But over the years I realized it has also given me plenty of opportunities.
They say that with age comes wisdom. And in terms of my disability, I slowly began to understand that when I was out in public and people talked to me in a louder tone of voice then they would someone else; or they talked to my caregiver in hopes of getting information about me instead of addressing me directly, people were not intentionally trying to be offensive. They just didn’t know how to interact with people with disabilities effectively. And I can’t really fault anyone for experiences that they haven’t had.
The idea came about in the summer of 2016. Due to a combination of circumstances, I only had one caregiver at the time. He was wonderful and we had a good time together. It also meant that I spent a whole lot of time alone. It was Michael who suggested I fill those long hours with a writing project separate from my blog. When I asked him what he thought I should write about, he answered me with a question.
What do you want people to know, Lorraine?
My new book, “More the Same than Different: What I Wish People Knew About Respecting and Including People with Disabilities” was born at that moment. At first, it was just about putting my thoughts on paper. That was safe. Then an outline began to take shape. And over the last twenty months or so, I have spent part of every day perfecting what I wanted to say. As the launch date for this book got closer, I was undeniably excited. I also started to get scared. I guess that is one of the things that happens when someone chooses to put something so personal out into the world. There will be those who won’t get it. But I am also aware that the purpose of this book was to speak to the people who want to understand. So many people have helped on this journey. From the friends who took the time to read a draft and provide honest feedback, to the friends who kept me going on the days I didn’t think the frustration was worth it and I really wanted to quit.
Who am I writing to specifically? Well, my target audience is college students who are going into the helping professions. I have been a college student before, that is why I kept the book short. But really, this book is for anyone who wants to know more about having positive interactions with the often-overlooked population of people with disabilities. I will readily say that I am by no means an expert, there are as many opinions about how to respectfully interact with people with disabilities as there are people with disabilities. These are strictly my ideas and opinions, but I hope that some people will find them helpful.
The last few days have been a little surreal. We finished the final edits needed. (Thanks, Jodi and Kevin.) I was interviewed on the Chicken Soup for the Soul podcast yesterday. That episode will air on June 1st. There is now a link to More the Same than Different: What I Wish People Knew About Respecting and Including People with Disabilities on Amazon, and the book is actually available to purchase. Whoa! I officially feel like an author.
The other big change that is happening is that this blog is moving. My past posts and everything I write on this blog in the future can now be found on my website lorrainecannistra.com. The whole site has been updated and is looking really good. (Thanks Brian and Nicole.)
If you have ever felt awkward or uncomfortable around people with disabilities, I get it. And it is totally okay. I feel the same way when I am around any group of people that I haven’t had much experience interacting with.
My challenge is simple and heartfelt. I ask that you don’t do what feels safe and familiar the next time you encounter someone with a disability. Instead, take a chance and do something a little more unconventional.
Do things: buy the book.