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Andwele Boyce: Possibility Over Disability
My name is Andwele Boyce and I was diagnosed with Spastic Diaplegic Cerebral Palsy early on in life, leading to years of challenges substantive but not insurmountable.
The challenges related to my disability are numerous. Physical mobility was the first challenge. I learned to walk at the age of 4 and the process of getting there was marked by surgeries, high medical costs and honestly, lots of courage and perseverance. When I finally learned to walk I did so with the aid of leg braces and crutches. I required them because of my weakened extremities and unbalanced gait.
Intellectually I developed at the same pace of my peers and in many ways outpaced them despite missing a significant amount of school due to medical treatment overseas.
“My greatest challenge in the classroom was writing (it was slow and illegible) as result of poor fine motor which was attendant to my diagnosis.”
In an education system which was then largely resistant to change my parents were forced to constantly advocate for and insist upon accommodations that would level the playing field and help to ensure my success, a reality which was stressful and costly but for which I am incredibly grateful.
Despite my limitations, I was never treated any differently by those who loved me most. My parents expected academic excellence, good manners and an assertive personality. My friends expected the affable kid who always had the witty come back and who was a fierce competitor. My summer days at home were normal as possible, including endless rounds of hide and seek, bike riding, crab hunting, playing volleyball and climbing the trees near my house.
A belief in the infinite possibilities is the reason that the bigotry of low expectation never ceases to bowl me over. Every time someone says to me you are so intelligent and articulate to be disabled I am reminded of what my life could have been without love, support and access to resources.
“Today I walk unaided – no need for leg braces after my final surgery at the age of fifteen. I stopped using crutches about two years ago. My gait remains unbalanced but painless. I still write relatively slow but a great deal more legible but in this age of high technology who writes anyways. I am more likely impeded by the distractions of social media than by my disability.”
In spite of the challenges of disability I get to live a life full and vibrant as exactly who I want to be, a wish I have for all people.