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When People Call Me Good 'for a Disabled Person'

“You snowboard good for a disabled person.”

It took me a day to actually process what I was told. I thought: “Wait, what?” You see, I have a traumatic brain injury and acquired brain injury. My brain isn’t as fast as it used to be. I can catch what you say, but my brain doesn’t know what to do with that information right away.

Participating in Race Camp at Ski Spectacular.
Participating in Race Camp at Ski Spectacular.

Even though my brain is damaged, I walk differently, and I talk differently, I still want to do the things I did before. This is where adaptive sports comes into the story. I travel 7 hours to get to my Disabled Sports USA Chapter in the Northeast mountains to learn how to snowboard again. It is my second season back on my board, and I have to say I am snowboarding much better than last season, thanks to all my coaches.

It’s a new season with a handful of new coaches. Most of the coaches work in the rehabilitation and healthcare field, so they are really good when it comes to teaching people with disabilities how to ski or snowboard. Heck, one of my coaches has a brain injury as well, so she knows first hand! Another one of my coaches is an OT (occupational therapist) and she is really helpful when it comes to getting my foot in my bindings, zippering, and helping me manage my muscle tone. She is also the only person I let tease me when it comes to my speech/language issues.

Being coached by Paralympic snowboard racers in CO.
Being coached by Paralympic snowboard racers in CO.

During my first weekend up at my program, I had a familiar coach, and I also had a new coach. We did really well. I did even surprised myself with my own shredding! In the afternoon, the new coach said to me in the gondola, “You snowboard good for a disabled person.”

I really didn’t know what to say. He continued talking about how I’m almost like an “able-bodied” rider. I then joked around and said “If you want to see good adaptive snowboarders, you should head out west to Breckenridge for Ski Spectacular,” and chuckled.

I’m really not that good. Well, not as good as I used to be. Hell, I’m just starting to be able to carve and ride switch again. If I were able-bodied, I wouldn’t be re-learning how to snowboard again with a disabled sports program. I wouldn’t be able to snowboard better than I walk (I seriously do, it’s ridiculous). If I were able-bodied, I would be able to see out of both of my eyes and be able to see the entire picture, not just glances (thanks Balint’s Syndrome and field of vision loss). If I were able-bodied, my right side wouldn’t get all toned and stiff when doing physical activity.

However, I do not want nor need to be reminded that I am “disabled.” I don’t want to be called good “for a disabled person.” I don’t want to be referred to as a “disabled snowboarder.”

I just want to be called a snowboarder.

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