When we hear the word “children” we imagine children running carelessly here and there, their laughter joining the wind. But there are also children, who smile but… have two legs. These children who at a tender age are called to realize that they will not run like other children their age. I was one of them.
So I, like many people with disabilities, had to deal with the difficulties that accompany cerebral palsy. Having been born with a disability, I was forced to “grow up” early. The realization that my legs will never obey me was and is the greatest difficulty for me to this day. Because it is not easy for any person with a mobility disability to grow up in an inaccessible environment, without the necessary infrastructure.
My wheelchair used to be more of a hindrance to me than a helpful tool. The children, my classmates, hated it because it was something strange, foreign and unfamiliar to them. But that’s how I treated it too… as something foreign, “cold” and unapproachable. Until over the years, I realized that I was in an unequal battle with my wheelchair. In an unequal battle with my disability.
Until I was faced with life’s most important dilemma. Would I let my disability limit me or not?
I chose the second one.
I never seemed to let her define me. I was social, cheerful and smiling. Being in a wheelchair, however, has nothing to do with the “look” for us, it’s our “being”!
In recent years I have started to perceive my wheelchair as a tool to achieve my dreams and not as an obstacle to them. I now see my wheelchair as a means to forge real bonds of love, friendship and respect both in my social and professional environment. Now I’m not just Niki in her wheelchair, but Niki who has friends, who studies, who plays sports, who has fun with her wheelchair.
I am Niki who claims her rights and expresses herself freely without embellishment. Niki who talks about her victories as well as her defeats, which we all face every day.
Ultimately, our disability must become our companion and not our enemy! When we understand it, when we know it and accept it, then we can define it and carry it as we want, without it defining us!