What better way to kick off my blog than with Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month??!!
This year I want to focus on 2 different points to spinal cord injury awareness month. The first is giving the Reader’s Digest version of what a spinal cord injury is and the second is raising awareness for people of all different types of abilities. This is a long one but bear with me because it’s important!
1. Spinal Cord Injury
I have never been interested in anything related to the medical field. My high school biology class was the extent of my education on the human body and I think the only thing I learned was something along the lines of the mitochondria being the powerhouse of the cell- whatever that means. With that being said, when I was told that I had a spinal cord injury, I had no idea what that meant. Most of the time I don’t feel qualified to educate anyone on anything related to the human body, but I guess living with a spinal cord injury for two years now makes me somewhat of an expert on this particular subject.
A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord, which can cause permanent changes in movement, strength, sensation and other functions below the level of injury. The spinal cord is a group of nerves that carries signals from your brain to the rest of your body. So when my brain tells my legs to move, they don’t hear it. There are also different levels of spinal cord injuries. Levels have to do with the location and number of the affected spinal nerve. For example, I was injured at a C6 level. Check out the diagram for what that means.
Currently, there is no cure for paralysis but that doesn’t mean we stop spreading awareness. It just means we keep fighting.
2. People of all types of abilities
Want to hear an embarrassing story?
When I was in the hospital, I sobbed hard for the sole reason that I didn’t want to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. While that is a perfectly normal thing to be upset about, one of the main reasons why I didn’t want to be in a wheelchair was because I didn’t want to be the only one. I had never seen someone in the media in a wheelchair. I had never seen someone around town in a wheelchair that wasn’t elderly. I had never seen someone that looked like me in a wheelchair anywhere ever! Oh by the way, this isn’t an embarrassing story about me. This is an embarrassing story about our culture and about our education system.
I am no stranger to our education system. Less than 2 months before my injury I graduated with my masters in Early Childhood Education. During my program, every single class was about diversity. It didn’t matter what the class was called or what the description of the class said, it ended up being about diversity. However, looking back, “diversity” really meant racial diversity and that was it. Diversity did not include disabilities. Sure we talked about learning disabilities, but we never, not once, talked about physical disabilities. I am embarrassed that I never thought twice about the obvious omission of people with physical disabilities. I am embarrassed that our education system doesn’t bother educating teachers on physical disabilities. Physical disabilities are ignored so much so that when I, a highly educated adult, was injured, I felt alone in my new disability. If that’s how I felt, can you imagine how kids with these disabilities feel??
In the United States, 1 in every 4 people have some type of disability and 1 in every 7 people have some type of mobility disability. THOSE NUMBERS ARE CRAZY!!! In addition to this, someone becomes paralyzed in the United States every 48 seconds! I am overwhelmed by these statistics. But if these numbers are so high, how come they aren’t properly represented in society? How come our world still isn’t properly designed for people like me to get around? How come our education system isn’t including all physical abilities when they teach about diversity?
Don't get me wrong, our society has come a long way. This year marks 30 years since the ADA was signed into law. But there is still a lot of work to be done.
I found this fun little diagram on inaccessibility.
For spinal cord injury awareness month, I want to raise awareness for people of all abilities. I encourage you to search #spinalcordinjury on Instagram and look at all of the INCREDIBLE people out there living with this injury. They are entrepreneurs, governors, doctors, activists, dancers, body builders, parents, students and this list could go on and on. This group of people is knocking down barriers, breaking stereotypes and changing the world!