By Daniel J. Vance
[Part two of interview with CSI actor Robert David Hall.]
Nearly one American in fifty over age 65 is an amputee, meaning they have lost at least a portion of a limb usually because of complications from diabetes, cancer, vascular disease or trauma.
But many of the nation's 1.3 million amputees are under 65. One of the most famous is Robert David Hall, 56, who plays coroner Dr. Albert Robbins on TV drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." In 1978, he lost parts of both legs in a fiery automobile accident.
While Hall has attained a level of "fame" among CSI's 30 million viewers, he realizes that most Americans don't necessarily view him through the same lens. To many, either in the shopping mall or grocery store, he's just another nameless person with a disability.
It can be frustrating. "I'm treated and perceived differently when I'm in my wheelchair versus when I have artificial 'legs' on and walk with crutches," Hall said from Hollywood. "In my chair and without my 'legs' on, I'm obviously a person with a disability. When walking with crutches, I'm at an 'able-bodied' person's eye level. It's different."
Whereas children are honest and sometimes ask if he feels pain using a wheelchair or crutches, adults often are "a bit stand-offish."
Like any human being, Hall and others with a disability want to be treated respectfully. "People will sometimes open a door for me, but I prefer it when they ask me if it's all right first," he said. "As for people with disabilities in general, at times many need assistance, yet they don't need others making their decisions for them. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage [for a person with a disability] to demand to be treated as a human being."
He prefers being called "a person with a disability" rather than "disabled" or "handicapped." He says it's important to address someone as a person first before adding "adjectives."
And besides his own disability, his brother Bruce has two boys with autism.
As "Dr. Robbins," he receives letters from children with disabilities interested in pursuing various careers. In brief, he tells them to dream, become knowledgeable of their sought-after profession via education and to act on their dreams.
"You have to hold up a candle of possibility to children with disabilities," he said, "and to make their world larger."