The presenters asked 13 women living with a variety of disabilities to write about their experiences. A number of themes emerged from the examination of the women’s stories. Perhaps the most unexpected theme was that many of the stories focused on the positive ways their disability affected their lives. To report just a few of the positive concepts noted in the stories: women mentioned lessons learned in regards to “not taking things for granted,” “development of perseverance, determination, and how to solve problems,” “my disability pushed me to advocate, aspire, and excel,” and “my injury has shaped me into the person I am today.”
Another theme centered on what the women can do. Multiple authors noted that their disability does not define them. Many women noted the goals they have set in a number of areas such as physical fitness, spiritual growth, and helping others with a disability. Many are still working and/or active in organizations to promote the health and well-being of other persons struggling with a disability. Still another positive theme related to the support of their family, friends, and others suffering from a disability.
Themes also emerged about the “setbacks, challenges, and frustrations” in living with a disability. One of the most persistent frustrations for the women involved their interactions with medical expenses, health care providers and the health care system.
These stories will challenge individuals and society to address the pervasive issues that so often negatively impact women living with disabilities.
Linda Snell, DNS, RN, is a member of the Brockport nursing faculty and serves as associate dean for the School of Health and Human Performance. An experienced women’s health nurse practitioner, she has presented and published for many years on the health care needs of women with disabilities. She has recently expanded her research interests into the broader experiences and concerns of women with disabilities. Dr. Snell acquired an orthopedic disability 11 years ago after a serious injury was misdiagnosed following a fall.
Lauren Lieberman, PhD, is a Distinguished Service Professor in the adapted physical education program in the Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies, and Physical Education. She is an internationally known expert in adapted physical education, especially for children with sensory impairments. She is a prolific scholar who has multiple publications and presentations. Every summer Dr. Lieberman directs Camp Abilities at Brockport. This exciting event provides opportunities for children who are visually impaired, blind, or deafblind to experience sports activities. Camp Abilities also serves to educate teachers in the field of sport and recreation for children with sensory impairments.
Luz Cruz, EdD, is an associate professor emerita from the Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies, and Physical Education, where she taught for 13 years. The challenges of living with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) necessitated the decision to retire on disability in June 2010. Dr. Cruz volunteers for the National MS Society, Upstate New York Chapter and is currently serving as the facilitator for the Bilingual/Hispanic Self-Support Group. Dr. Cruz has lived with MS for more than 31 years.