DISABILITIES

HOMEPAGE www.danieljvance.com

By Daniel J. Vance


Three and a half years have flown by.

I started writing this column about disability almost a year to the day after September 11, 2001. Since then I've interviewed some of the best people in America and the world and written about their disabilities, and received hundreds of emails from all sorts of people dealing with all manner of disability.

Of all those interviewed, I remember most fondly my twenty minutes of telephone time with Chris Burke, the actor with Down syndrome who played “Corky Thatcher” in 1989-93 on the hit ABC series Life Goes On. He has to be the funniest man in the world.

Surprisingly, I didn't receive much email after featuring him. For whatever reason, I always seem to receive the most after featuring people with multiple chemical sensitivity, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or fibromyalgia.

The amount of email I get shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, about 54 million Americans have a disability.

A few emails have been tough to decipher, but most people sending them have crystal clear reasons for writing. Usually they have been struggling and looking for help, have a story to tell, want to say thanks, or in a couple cases have corrected or informed me.

On at least two occasions I've received email from people asking about my disability. The truth is I really don't have one, unless you count post-traumatic stress disorder from a serious childhood accident. Since that doesn't significantly affect my work, play or home life, I don't count it.

But I do have a 10-year-old daughter with spina bifida.

The Spina Bifida Association of America website says, “Spina bifida is a neural tube defect happening in the first month of pregnancy when the spinal column doesn't close completely.” About 70,000 Americans have it, and about 90 percent have a brain shunt to manage hydrocephalus. The degree of paralysis depends on the specific area of the spine affected. My daughter's spina bifida is at L-4, which in her case means she lacks feeling below the knees and several other areas.

Every once in a while, I question whether writing this column about disability is worth the effort and time. When I do, it helps in part to review the old email file and remember all the good people writing in around the nation.

My many thanks to you, friends.

To email Mr. Vance, see www.danieljvance.com