DISABILITIES

By Daniel J. Vance

 

  When Jean Driscoll speaks, people listen.

  She won two Olympic silver medals, eight Boston Marathons, and was a spokesperson for Ocean Spray, California Date Commission and United Airlines. Sports Illustrated for Women named her No. 25 on its "Top 100" list of female athletes of the 20th century. She also co-authored the book Determined to Win.

  And she did it all from her wheelchair.

  Now she speaks to thousands of corporate executives, college students, athletes, and members of non-profit organizations on "Dreaming Big and Working Hard."

  "My disability doesn't define me," she said. "I may look different on the outside, but I have the same wants, desires and passions on the inside as most other people." She said her disability is only one aspect of her total being, not that much different from her hair color or shoe size.

  Her disability is spina bifida, the nation's most frequently occurring permanently disabling birth defect, and one that involves incomplete development of the spinal column.

  Again, Driscoll's Olympic medals and Boston Marathon victories were won in a wheelchair. Her type of wheelchair racing is highly competitive, and shouldn't be confused with the Special Olympics, which involves persons with cognitive disabilities. In her prime at 112 pounds Driscoll could bench press 210.

  "I retired from racing in 2000," she said. "Training used to be my lifestyle. I trained six days a week, up to five hours daily. To prepare for the Boston Marathon, I would lift weights three to four times a week, and put in 120-150 miles." Her workout mileage came from pushing her wheelchair along roads, track, and over "rollers," which was a cylindrical drum that allowed her to push in place inside during cold weather.

  She shrugs her shoulders at spina bifida. "In reality, walking is overrated," she said, smiling. "There isn't anything in life I haven't been able to do. In fact, I've done things most people only dream, regardless of whether or not they have a disability. I am still in awe of all that has taken place. God has blessed me beyond my imagination."

  Had her parents been told long ago that one of their five children would one day win the Boston Marathon, Driscoll said they never would have considered her.

  Learn more at www.jeandriscoll.com or try the Spina Bifida Association of America website at www.sbaa.org. More Jean Driscoll next week.

  [Contact Mr. Vance at www.danieljvance.com]