Being a severely physically disabled student at Monmouth University is like living in a monastery. Hearing my garbled speech, observing my figure swaying like a maple tree on a windy day, and seeing my motorized wheelchair spinning in all crazy directions frightens professors and students. They automatically enter into shell shock when I sit at their cafeteria tables and attempt to begin friendly chitchat. "Hi, my name is Yvonne. What is your name?" I exclaim to smash the crystal, thick ice.
Pronouncing these words slowly enough to be immediately understood is physically as well as emotionally draining. Most of the time, students and professors are too self-absorbed to even make eye contact. It is amazing to watch them inhale their greasy food in less than five minutes and sprint out of the college center as if they are on fire. My bleeding heart sinks to the bottom of the ocean as I whimper, "It was nice to meet you. Have a lovely afternoon!" I leave to go to my next class.
I think to myself, "God! I feel like I have full blown AIDS instead of Cerebral Palsy! Geez, Cerebral Palsy is just brain damage, not a progressive disease! Why can't people accept me for who I am?" Just then my right hand suddenly flies off my joystick. Arms and legs flail wildly, left shoe suddenly hits the rocky pavement, and tears of 100% pure frustration blind me as I sit on the yellow brick road.
Eyes, from every direction, stare at me. "HEY, YOU NEVER SAW A WOMAN DANCE IN A WHEELCHAIR! WANNA JOIN ME IN A JIG, HUH?" I yell. Of course, nobody hears me! Within two minutes, I finally overcome my involuntary movements and mow down students who pretend I am a ghost by walking through me. "YO! OUT OF MY WAY!" I shout as I am huffing and puffing. They certainly jump out of the way without apologizing for being so rude.
I arrive at my class located somewhere in Bey Hall, my entire body is
drenched from sweat. While my full-time aide helps me to prepare for
I feel like announcing to my loyal classmates, "Yes folks, you are
an alien from the television show Third Rock from the Sun. I guess you
have not seen anybody typing with their heads. Why don't you try head
instead of writing chicken scratch!" Nobody notices that I am now
my head pointer (a hat attached to a long, metal rod). I scan the class
wondering if anybody felt my presence. At last, I take a deep breath
"Why do I try so freaking hard? Is it worth taking these boring classes? It doesn't matter in the end because nobody will hire a handicapped psychologist. People don't want to bother with you because of your disability. Perhaps, I should have stayed in the closet instead of pursuing my long-term educational goals," I painfully admit to myself.
As soon as the professor starts to lecture, my spirits rise. Since people constantly tell me that I am a first class dummy, competing with non disabled students is like strolling along mother nature's rainbow. Once again, I feel that I can accomplish anything as my head pointer tap dances across the laptop's keyboard, which is sitting on a table directly in front of me. Words appear on my screen as a boy, sitting next to me, smiles and whispers, "Yvonne, I really enjoyed reading your article printed in the school newspaper. I'll call you tonight so that we can chat more, okay?" My head pointer stops dancing as I screech for joy, "YES! I DO EXIST!!!"
that you'll come visit my own website
to learn more!
|To the frog ponds||Send Yvonne a note||To the site map|
Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468
updated: September 24, 2005