Heather Brooks earned both her undergraduate

and graduate degrees from Portland State

University. She lives and writes in the Rose City, 

while completing an internship at Incight.





That word is not only highly subjective; it can also be highly offensive to those it is used to exclude.

So how does a typical day shape up for you? What do you do? What can you do? How do you do whatever it is? Which challenges do you face? What comes easily? In short, what’s your “normal?”

For me, it’s a temp of 97, a weight around 100, and a pulse of 72.

It’s the slight asthmatic hitch to my breathing and the hint of a slur in my speech.

It’s a lisp when I get tired, a dull headache when I get cold, and dizzying hypoglycemia when I get hungry.

It’s when my muscles relax after my morning coffee kicks in, or when my legs tremble with spasms that sting like electric shocks.

It’s supporting all my weight on one arm to change position in my wheelchair, with the realization that I’m not getting any younger, and yeah, someday my right rotator cuff will probably hate me. It’s the twinge of arthritis in my back, from a fall I took, chair and all, at 17, and the swelling of the same in my right ankle from sprain upon sprain.

But it’s also washing my hair, one-handed, in my bathroom sink, all on my own.

It’s applying my makeup the same way.

It’s trips downtown to the symphony on the bus in the dark, and knowing the difference between the high Baroque and the high Romantic periods in orchestral music.

It’s navigating the city of Portland more by senses of hearing and smell than by sight.

It’s when I feel the approach of a heavy vehicle far away through my entire body.

It’s inventing my own recipes just because I can.

It’s a bachelor’s degree in a sleeve on my bookshelf, and a master’s in a frame on my wall.

It’s thinking (not fluently, mind you) in three languages at once.

It’s inhaling the scent of a new book, caressing the pages with my fingers, and hearing them rustle when I turn them, because although I can see well enough to read the book, my nose, fingers, and ears will tell me more about it than my nearsighted eyes ever could.

So which is abnormal, the fact that the disabled person washes her hair with one hand, that the disabled person washes her hair with one hand, or that the disabled person washes her hair with one hand?

Note the differences in emphasis, and consider: Is it odd that the disabled person washes her own hair?

Well, apart from those who frequent salons to take care of this, millions of people each day wash their own hair.

Is it strange that the disabled individual should desire to maintain personal cleanliness?

It’s my understanding that that’s the socially acceptable practice, but who knows? I’ve been wrong before.

Is it peculiar that the disabled person performs all the steps of washing her hair using only one hand?

Countless people do countless things with one hand, and simultaneously do countless entirely different things with the other.

It’s called multitasking.




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