UCP Seguin Volunteers Show Support for Vets at The Moving Wall

UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago paid a visit to The Moving Wall as it passed through Berwyn, Illinois August 7 through 11. The Wall, a smaller replica of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Washington D.C., has been touring the United States for 30 years. Berwyn Mayor Robert J. Lovero and the Berwyn Development Corporation sponsored the wall’s visit to the Chicago areas and and UCP Seguin’s “Community Connections” program jumped in to provide some of the many volunteers needed to ensure a meaningful experience for local veterans and others. 

A group of people, some older, some younger, posing for a picture in the middle of a field.

Seguin volunteers, including people with disabilities and staff members, helped loved ones locate the names of their friends and family members on the exhibit. Afterwards they assisted with routine maintenance of the exhibit.

“We are especially proud of the way people with disabilities and staff generously contributed to this poignant memorial,” stated John Voit, UCP Seguin President and CEO. “The Moving Wall brought together, side by side, people with and without disabilities to commemorate the brave souls we have lost to war. Not only do the people we serve benefit from this experience, but so does the whole community.”

The “Community Connections” program helps people with disabilities give back to their community. UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago is an affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy serving 1000 children and adults with disabilities throughout the Greater Chicago area.

Dating with a Disability

By D’Arcee Neal

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and articles related to disability and dating recently and they tend to present you with these epic checklists that most able-bodied people aren’t going to sift through, because much like two people on a first date, no one likes to play 20 questions. So I’m going to try to boil it down to what is essential, in my opinion.

 Last summer I was at dinner with a married couple who both used wheelchairs and I decided to ask them about relationships. I asked them very candidly if they found it difficult to be in relationships before they found each other. I was interested to see how different genders would answer that question. The husband replied almost immediately, “Oh I had no trouble at all. I had so many dates in college I had to tell them to go away.” When I turned to his wife, she took several seconds to answer.

“It was hard. Very hard,” she said. “I never really realized how difficult until I was graduating from college, but I guess men are different that way.”

Whether you’re a man or a woman with a disability does have an effect on your dating experience. Based on what I’ve seen and been told, women tend to put physicality lower on the scale of attractive traits when looking for a potential partner whereas men are much more attuned to what a woman’s body is like. It may not top the list of what they’re looking for, but for most guys, it’s a major factor

D'Arcee Neal

D’Arcee Neal

As a gay man I can only speak to the experiences that I have had, and certainly not for all people with disabilities, but I also think that the type of disability you have alters the perceptions of the people you’re attempting to woo. While some may argue that dating with any disability at all levels the playing field in regards to the degree of difficulty, I argue against that. I think we tend to believe that what we see is what we get, at least at first glance, and a visible, physical disability can put the brakes on a relationship before it even gets started.

In the world of online dating, when crafting a profile you are given the opportunity to present to the world the face of your choosing, and with less visible disabilities, it is your decision to withhold that information until a better time. This could be for better or for worse, depending on the severity of the disability. At first glance, people will immediately begin creating perceptions of what they think you are like. I do it. You do it. It’s what we do.

But I think this is the crux of what makes dating with a disability so difficult. I would like to believe that people are generally accepting of the majority of people with disabilities as far as friendships go, but once you move into the realm of more intimate, romantic intentions, that person is suddenly confronted with their own personal comfort level at having to include the person with the disability into their lives, from the routine issues like transportation, to the far more personal idea of sex. In the gay community, I believe that many people are not ready to handle the idea of something outside of the norm of what they already expect.

Take the ubiquitous statement “I enjoy long walks on the beach” as a measure of compatibility. People without disabilities may think, “Could we walk in the park? Maybe you like hiking or camping instead?” That’s still in the realm of compatible since those options are about sharing some sort of physical activity with one another. When dealing with wheelchair users, that idea is immediately fractured because rolling in sand (or up a mountainside) is a cumbersome and energy-sapping endeavor that leaves you looking sweaty and ridiculous. When first setting up an account or updating information, many people with disabilities (myself included) struggle with the idea of including that information. It’s nice to be honest and upfront with people, but come on, it’s also nice to be noticed and taken at least halfway seriously before you start in on what could potentially be the mood-killer.

So how then, to handle these pitfalls? I’m not going to say that I’m a guru of information and that what I suggest is a fix-all approach, but in my experience, there are some things that can make for better dating regardless of disability:

  • Decide how important your disability is to you before publishing information online. Don’t let others dictate how to see yourself. If to you, it’s a minor inconvenience, then treat it as such. It’s nobody’s business but yours until you choose.
  • Align yourself with people whom you have basic ideals in common with. If getting around is a hassle to you, trying to date someone who likes to audition for American Ninja every weekend probably isn’t going to work out well.  This seems like a basic thing to say, but for people with disabilities, the basics get even more basic when it comes to things like walking.
  • Know your comfort level. Sometimes a lunch can be just that. Sometimes it can be more, and if all your wanting is dessert (both metaphorically and actual) then make sure that information is made apparent.
  • Being single can be amazing, if you let it. You deserve the person that is ready for YOU, not the other way around. Most of the time people with disabilities can’t alter their circumstances anyway, so either let the person you want to date appreciate your uniqueness, or find someone that will. There’s nothing worse than being shoehorned into a situation and praying it will fit.
  • Last but not least, understand that not everyone is ready for your awesomeness. This is a very hard lesson and it’s one that I feel like people with disabilities get more than our fair share of heartache. Dating someone with a disability is the same as dating someone without one, with a few modifications and a lot of understanding. Some people are okay and ready to learn. Some aren’t and you can’t force someone into a place they’re not ready to go.

 Is dating people with disabilities harder? Yes, but only because the world is unaccustomed to it. The world is full of billions of individuals and each of them deserves to find their share of happiness. With body shaming, ableism, gender biases, homophobia and mass media reflecting so many idealized images these days, it’s a wonder anyone manages to find their significant other. But they do, and sometimes they have disabilities and life goes on. Sometimes they’re passed over for that prettier, thinner, able-bodied face. It’s up to you to own that knowledge and then to use it. You’re awesome, now let them know it. 

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage…

We recently received a couple of videos here at UCP’s national office that shared a similar theme – the joy of wedding celebrations!

Scott and Kim Sussman’s video commemorating their courtship and wedding caught our eye because it exemplifies what it means to live a life without limits. Scott was born a type of cerebral palsy called spastic diplegia. It is among the most common kind of CP and it affects his lower extremities. We really loved the video of Scott and his new wife Kim because his disability is only referred to once and never again! Even when Scott mentioned it, he didn’t refer to it by name. It is simply a part of who he is which Kim loves and accepts along with other traits. We thought Kim’s reaction upon hearing about Scott’s CP was the absolute perfect way to handle what could have been an awkward dating situation, and she managed to also make it adorable.

Here’s to Scott and Kim! Enjoy their wedding video!

 

This next video really tugged at the collective heartstrings. Korey has spastic quadriplegia. He uses a wheelchair and has issues communicating via speech. So when his brother Kyle got married, Korey wrote his “best man’s speech” to his brother Kyle, but Kyle had to be the one to read it. We like this video because it shows that you can still live a life without limits with enthusiasm and humor even if you need a little help. This video is a shining example of the unique bond of siblings. We think Korey and Kyle are outstanding young men and wish Kyle all the best in his marriage. We also wonder what Kyle can possibly do to top Korey’s speech when Korey gets married and it’s Kyle’s turn to be best man!