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What I've Learned From Living With A Disability
By Dave Hale

My name is Dave Hale, and I live with a physical disability. I was born in 1979 with a severe form of Spina Bifida, leaving me with limited feeling and movement in my legs and feet.

What if I told you that having a disability has taught me many things about life? It has.

Independence: At six-years-old, I began developing life skills in occupational therapy. The more I developed these skills, the less help I needed. Today, I'm a responsible adult, mostly because of the people who encouraged me to be independent. They showed me that I was capable of accomplishing more than I thought I could.

Empathy: I've learned to identify with others in their struggles. My friends with disabilities have similar experiences. Stigma, stares, inaccessibility, and negative comments are just some of them. It's been good to for us to know that we are not alone and there are friends who understand.

Curiosity: I've learned to ask questions about life. Living with a disability has raised important questions about my purpose and about my place in this world. I enjoy seeking and searching for the answers, which not only helps me live a meaningful life, but also leads to even more questions!

Gratitude: I've learned to be thankful and take nothing for granted. Are there heartaches and headaches that come from living a disability? Yes. Are there a lot of things to be thankful for in my life of disability? Absolutely! One of the main things I'm thankful for is the opportunity I get every day when I wake up to be inspired, learn, grow, and be productive. This is living well.

The Woodlands, a nonprofit organization serving people of all ages with disability, helps to cultivate these qualities for participants through year-round programming. I've been a participant at The Woodlands since 1997! Woodlands' participants gain independence in a supportive environment, with opportunities to have fun and empathize with peers. The Woodlands fosters a sense of curiosity as we imagine the possibilities for new adventures and accomplishments. To learn more about The Woodlands visit www.mywoodlands.org.

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