For the past two weeks, a group of rising sophomores at Cary Academy have learned about the differently-abled and the challenges they face. We have met incredible speakers who face challenges everyday, and have learned to overcome them with high spirits and optimism. From them we have learned how important it is to spread awareness, and to not ignore them. In the Table of Contents to the right are links to some of the main themes we have learned. We hope you will also visit the different topics listed on the left side to see the research various groups of students have done. Also, check out this inspiring quote from JFK Jr. Thanks for visiting the Differently-abled wiki!

Accepting your disability

Throughout this Discovery Term we have had numerous speakers with all different types of disabilities come and speak to us. We found that most people had accepted their disability. The man that was deaf, Shea, had no interest in Cochlear implants. This surprised us all at first because we thought that if someone had a disability, they would want to do anything they could to try to fix it. However once we looked at it more closely, we understood why these people would not want to change. In Shea’s case, he has never heard anything. If all of a sudden he started hearing, he would have to learn what all these sounds were. He would have to recognize what a person’s voice is, or a lion’s roar. We also saw a similar situation with Tucker Dupree. Tucker starting losing his vision when he was 17, and now he has only 20% of his vision left. Despite all of this he continued swimming and even swam in the Paralympics in Beijing. He said that he did not want to try to regain his vision because he had overcome this ‘speed bump’ in his life, and he didn’t want to start over from scratch. He has learned to count strokes and how to use a cane. It would just add more challenges if he regained his vision. We saw with Shea and Tucker that they had no desire to fix their disabilities, but we saw quite the opposite with Carrie. Carrie has a son, Chris, with muscular dystrophy. We could all tell that she wanted more than anything in the world for Chris not to have to suffer from the disease. We believe that the reason for this probably has to do with the fact that Carrie knows that at the moment there is no cure for the disease and not much she can do. When you are deaf, you can use sign language. When you are blind, you can use a guide dog or a cane. However there are a limited number of things that a person can do to try to cope with muscular dystrophy. They could get a wheelchair or service dog, but you would still have the awful feeling that there is not yet a cure for the disease. All of these speakers have opened our eyes to how people deal with disabilities. We find that some people have no desire to fix their disability, and others strongly do. We found that it all depends on what the person has to deal with and how well they would do out in the world if they were no longer faced with a disability.

Overcoming Obstacles

When people have disabilities they learn to cope with the everyday problems that they face. Some problems such as climbing stairs seem like a simple task for able bodies but for someone in a wheelchair it seems like an impossible feat. In the past two weeks we have learn many things able different disabilities when differently-able speakers have told us their stories. They told us how everyday activities that we take for granted pose challenges to them. For Chris, a twelve year old with muscular dystrophy, the simple task of picking up a dropped pencil is incredible challenge. For Chris he applied for a “Service dog” that would help him with everyday things, such as turning on a light or open a door. Chris’ dog is named Java; their relationship has become such a strong bond that Java becomes miserable when they are parted. Another speaker that we met was Betsey. Betsey has lost 173 degrees of vision; leaving her with only 7 degrees. This disability was a determent, but one good thing came out of this loss; she met her guide dog Janice. With Janice, Betsey can be independent and travel where she wants to go.


Some of us thought the most inspiring speakers that came in was Shea and Michelle. Their relationship is so strong and they deal with it as if it isnt a great set back. Some peoples relationships who are both hearing are in worse shape then theirs and Shea is deaf. In my opinion the most amazing aspect of Shea's relationship with his family is how he communicates with his children. It is amazing how Michelle and Shea were able to teach their children sign language as they were growing up just like anyone would teach children how to speak. Although Shea can communicate with his children it still must be hard to realize that he will never be able to hear their voices. He told us about when he will go to a place like McDonalds and try to order by writing the order down, but they will still try to have his kids interpret for him. I know that this must be very hard for him, because it is like he is losing some of his authority in a way. Another interesting point was that sign language is different for each language. When Shea said that he is happy that he is deaf and he would not have it any other way and when he sees people who do not have legs and arms he feels as if his disability isnt as severe. The relationship between Shea and his wife, Michelle, truly seemed to be as normal as any other. It was interesting how they would speak in sign language to each other since they were still able to convey their emotions. MIchelle said that people will think they are fighting when they are really having a completely normal conversation; it just looks so intense because of the emotion that they are putting into the signing. Mr. Matthews taught us what types of body language people use so that they are able to convey their emotions through sign language: facial expression, speed of signing, and and your body movement. Also their relationship taught me that a person can deal with a challenge and live through it which made me think about my everyday life, and how little things that I face can be overcome.
By- Brianna Gaddy and Allison A. Bailey

Just Ask

People who are differently-abled are just like us; they have dreams and hopes and friends. However, out in public these people are often stared at or whispered about. People who we have talked to, like Andrew and the kids at the Morehead School of the Blind, all agree that it is better to talk to them and ask about their condition instead of ignoring them. They are normal people that want to be treated normally. Betsy from the Foundation Fighting Blindness agreed with what they said. When she used a cane to help her deal with her blindness, she often found herself being ignored and isolated. Yet, when she got her guide dog, Janie, more people came up to her because of her dog, but it also helped her get her life back. These people are limited in one way, but that means we have to reach out to them and pull them into society rather than isolating them. If we do not reach out to them, then we are limiting them.


If you take the time to ask the people about their experiences instead of shying away it fosters awareness of the subject which is an important way of making those who are differently able included in everyday life. Making people more aware of the situations and daily challenges that people face would help to eliminate the silent barrier and allow those who are differently able to be more comfortable. If more people who are able bodied learn about the differences some people face they are more likely to get involved in finding a cure. Helping those who are facing a difficult disease is not just the responsibility of those who are involved or related to someone who has that disease; it's the responsibility of everyone who is informed and able to help. But you cannot expect those who are uniformed to be fighting the disease. Therefore spreading awareness is the most important first step in fighting these diseases. Once someone becomes informed they can then become more proactive in getting others involved in charities such as the Foundation Fighting Blindness, National Association for the Deaf, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Society of America, United Cerebral Palsy, and many other foundations devoted to aiding the quality of life for those who are faced with difficult diseases. It's not okay that people view fighting diseases as not important because it is not affecting them because you can never be sure that it will not affect you. Even those people who face these challenges never envisioned themselves in that position.

JFK, Jr. Quote

"My father," he says, lapsing into the familiar diction of an earlier Kennedy generation, "had a notion that our civilization would be judged not so much by the size of our armies, or the throw weights of our weapons, or the power of our industry, or the wealth of our citizens, but rather that we'd be judged by how we care for the least fortunate members of our society, how strongly we adhere to the principles upon which this nation was founded — civil rights and human rights — and how much we try to preserve the things that belong to our children, including...the opportunities for health and the bounties of the land, the clean air and the clean water and the things that represent so much a part of American heritage, our contact with nature." ~JFK Jr., quoted in a 1997 Outside magazine article