Limb Difference

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    Community Voices

    Chosen Not Cheated

    I was told my whole life I wouldn’t be able to have a baby due to my Type One #Diabetes . I was told it would be too hard for me to conceive, it would be unlikely I would be able to carry the baby full term, and too dangerous for me.

    And so when I got pregnant, I felt like finally……this was going to be my redemption story.

    After years of turmoil managing a chronic disease.

    After years of hospital stays and doctors appointments.

    Millions of shots and blood glucose checks.

    Years of being told a baby wasn’t in the cards for me and going full term would be near impossible.

    I did it.

    And yet, it wasn’t the redemption story I’d imagined in my mind.

    All of that struggle I’d endured hadn’t given me the perfect birth story, the healthy baby, the cherry on top of the sundae, or the fairy tale as a reward. That struggle I’d endured didn’t mean a damn thing. There was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for me.

    I felt cheated. I felt like I’d had my hopes, dreams, and years of silent prayers ripped out from under me. As I sat in the NICU for 10 weeks, watching other families leaving with their now healthy babies, I felt like God was handing out MY dreams to other people. Why did they get to go have the fairy tale life now? Why did they get the healthy baby? Why did our family have to suffer with uncertainty, fear, anger, a disability diagnosis, a chronic heart condition, and grief? How come everyone else’s baby would be able to walk and ours wouldn’t?  Why was our baby born with a lower #LimbDifference ? Why did our child need an amputation?

    Why wasn’t this my happily ever after?  Why was I being cheated out of my fairy tale?

    The thing that I didn’t know at the time was…..

    I hadn’t been cheated.

    I’d been chosen.

    Chosen to be her mama.

    Chosen to be her advocate.

    Chosen to be my husband’s soft place to land.

    Chosen to navigate this new world.

    Chosen to be her champion.

    Chosen because I was strong.

    Chosen because I knew what it was like to be different.

    Chosen because I can do hard things.

    Chosen because I’m stubborn as hell.

    Chosen because I know grief and loss.

    Chosen because I understand how to find joy in the every day.

    Chosen because I don’t quit.

    Chosen because there was no one else more perfectly suited to be her mother…..

    Than me.

    How Gerber and Mattel's Barbie Are Advancing Disability Representation

    In early May, Gerber announced the winner of their 2022 photo search: baby Isa. Isa, who was born without a femur or fibula, is the first Gerber Baby with a limb difference. Isa’s mother, Meredith, said in Gerber’s press release, “We hope Isa’s story can bring more awareness for limb differences and create greater inclusion for children like her. Because, just like Isa, they too can be or do anything they want!” Gerber’s President and CEO explained that the contest “celebrates the joy that babies bring. Isa’s submission brought smiles to all of our faces, and she truly embodies the idea that every baby is a Gerber baby.” It was refreshing to see that in Gerber’s announcement of this year’s winners, her limb difference is mentioned, but not focused on. In other news, Mattel continued their diversity and inclusion efforts by releasing a new Barbie doll with hearing aids, and a Ken doll with the skin condition vitiligo. Its Fashionista line also includes a Barbie with vitiligo, a doll with a prosthetic leg, and a Barbie that uses a wheelchair, as well as a Ken. Thank you, Gerber and Mattel, for recognizing that all bodies and abilities deserve to be celebrated.

    Community Voices

    My recent TEDx

    <p>My recent TEDx</p>
    2 people are talking about this
    Ruth Rathblott

    Deciding Whether to Disclose Your Disability on Dating Apps

    On a recent date, the prospective guy, let’s call him “Adam,” and I met for a quick “looksie,” the one-and-done drink to help you decide if you want to go on an actual date. Adam and I were having a good time; we shared the basics of who we are, what we do, blah blah blah, and swapped stories of bad dates — those dating prospects that looked nothing like their pictures or talked incessantly and never asked a question about us, and so on. We both felt a sense of relief that we appeared “normal.” He even remarked how refreshing it was to connect with a “smart woman” who wasn’t playing the texting back and forth game. We split the second glass of wine. Then, Adam threw out one more bad date story, announcing out loud (and it seemed really loud) that she was “crippled.” What? That took my breath away and not in a good way. I immediately thought, do we even use that “c” word in 2021? Who says that? The curiosity was killing me. “What do you mean?” I asked pointedly. He said, “Yeah, I showed up, and she couldn’t walk. She lied in her profile.” I got more curious, “Well, if she had shared that in her profile, would you have gone out with her?” He answered, “Probably not.” Wanting to keep exploring and help him dig his own grave, I just couldn’t help it; I asked if he enjoyed the date at all. He said, “It was fine, but she lied, and I can’t get past that.” Not wanting to be caught as a “liar” myself, I thought it was an excellent time to make my own big reveal. So, I told him. As someone born with a limb difference, missing my left hand, I have wrestled with the idea of sharing pictures in my dating profile that reveal my hand. Typically, I recognize that dating profiles are very surface level; we only put what we want people to see there. I reserve the right to determine if someone is “hand-worthy” before I share that part of myself. I decide, are they worthy of getting to know about my difference? This time, it called for an exception, “unworthy” but a must know. His mouth dropped open; he was embarrassed. I shared that while I hid my hand for 25 years, I now decide if a guy is worth it. I also shared that I have been learning to create space in case guys had any questions, but I know at this age that I don’t want to be with anyone who didn’t have tolerance for disability, let alone refer to it in a derogatory way. He asked for the check. I went home and regaled my “bad date” story with a few people. Missing the point, one person remarked, “Well, I guess then you are still hiding?” I replied, “No, I choose who gets to know when I am ready.” As a follow-up, I asked, “If you found yourself single and on a dating app, would you share your own mental health challenges?” The answer was a clear and immediate no. That made me wonder. Why do we expect people with visible disabilities to show and tell but not anyone else? I gave “Adam” a chance to say sorry, but my phone never rang. I deleted his profile. I am still glad that I told him. And I hope that I broadened his mind about disability (even if just a little) and that he will never tell that bad date story again.

    Ruth Rathblott

    We Must Include Disabled People in the Fight for Reproductive Rights

    On Saturday, I found myself outside of City Hall in NYC with hundreds of others rallying for reproductive rights. We were there to protest Texas’ very polarizing abortion law, which severely limits a woman’s access to own her healthcare. The law makes it nearly impossible to terminate a pregnancy after six weeks, no matter the circumstance, and provides a $10k bounty to those who successfully sue the woman, the doctor, and/or those assisting her; the law went into effect 30 days ago. Other states have similar laws just waiting to be enacted. I joined this Women’s March, my first, because the agenda was ultra-clear: protest the Texas law, prevent similar laws from being enacted in other states, and show support for why freedom of choice matters. For two hours that afternoon, I enthusiastically listened and repeated the chants as countless speakers expressed different viewpoints on reproductive justice and rights: young and old, politicians and nonprofit leaders, LGBTQ+, different races, and genders all represented. I photographed countless posters with language of support for reproductive rights and those pleading for women to be able to control their own bodies. It was powerful. However, as the speeches ended and the large crowd moved to finally march, I felt a waxing sense of disconnection. As a woman, I felt included. As a woman with a disability, I did not. Not once, during the long speeches filled with repeated refrains of “Abortions Rights Are … (fill in the blank for the group),” did I hear shouts on why abortion justice and rights matter to those with disabilities. Those with visible differences (like mine) and invisible mental health and neurocognitive differences were nowhere on the agenda, in the chants, or on posterboards. Instead, those with “otherness and disability” were a very definitive “etc.” during the shout-outs of “Race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.” As I have shared in previous articles and in talks, on my travels through diversity and inclusion, I have often felt left out, missing from the agenda, and not included. I woke up this morning upset and unnerved, questioning: Why wasn’t disability covered? Is it even necessary to recognize those with disabilities specifically in these conversations? The answer to the second question is a resounding yes. Some sobering statistics from NOW, all of which can lead to potentially having to make a reproductive choice: Women with disabilities are three times as likely to be physically abused or assaulted. As many as 40% of women with disabilities experience sexual assault or physical violence. People with intellectual disabilities are victims of sexual assault at rates more than seven times than those without disabilities. And those stats and others are cited by multiple sources. Google them, please. It’s horrifying and eye-opening. Not hearing even one speaker on Saturday mention the connection between disability and reproductive justice was beyond disturbing, is beyond disturbing. We need to include people with disabilities in the conversation on abortion rights and justice in meaningful ways. This is our health too. Also, it’s time to expand diversity to be more inclusive. People with disabilities need to be part of the diversity conversation in more meaningful ways as well. I am planning to contact the organizers to share my disappointment and solutions on disability inclusion, and I vow that I will be on the stage standing with my people with disabilities next year. Abortion Rights Are Disability Rights! Join me in expanding diversity to include those with visible and invisible differences. Postscript: Wherever you land personally and politically with your opinions on reproductive health and justice, my main point here is to please include people with disabilities in the conversation.

    Community Voices

    Excite to share and to learn from others

    Through sharing my personal journey of overcoming the shame of having a limb difference and hiding it for over 25 years, I have found that many people can relate, as they have had to cover and hide their own differences, whether physical, mental and/or personal background-- the visible and invisible. The gifts I have discovered from accepting my difference have been incredible, and include the freedom to be me, the power to be authentic in relationships, and the ability to connect fully with others-- and bringing my full self/human to work.


    2 people are talking about this
    Ruth Rathblott

    When People Say, 'I Don’t See You as Disabled'

    “I don’t see you as disabled.” The comment seems innocent enough, right? Maybe even a compliment. It’s meant to let someone know we aren’t focused on their apparent difference and want to assure them that we don’t see them “that way” — as something less than or as part of the stereotype. As I have become more vocal about my own limb difference, my disability, over the past few years, I have had several people say to me directly, “oh, I don’t see you like that; you’re not really disabled,” as though they are doing me a favor by not including me in “that” group. But, I do have a disability (as a matter of fact, 1 in 4 adult Americans do; we are the largest minority group), and it took me a long time to accept that part of myself, over half my life. So, I am not insulted to be part of “that group” — I actually have a sense of belonging now that I spent years without. And yet, I am left to wonder why we do this to groups who have been marginalized — why do we other each other? Perhaps, it’s because we don’t want to label someone who doesn’t match our definition of “that” group. We tell ourselves, you are different from the stereotypes I have learned. Your difference doesn’t compute with what I have been told about that group, so it causes dissonance forcing me to say you aren’t “that.” In fact, I believe I’m doing you a favor; you don’t have to be “that.” And, if we assume the best intention, it’s meant to be a compliment. Unfortunately, that’s not how many of us take it; it’s not how I take it anymore. I hear that I shouldn’t want to be part of that group because I am better than that. And, that part of my identity isn’t important because it’s uncomfortable for you and what you believe to be true about that group. My difference doesn’t matter. My story and my struggles don’t matter. My lived experience doesn’t matter. It is another way of forcing me to hide, hold shame, and cover that part of myself by not acknowledging my difference and all that goes with it. This “compliment” is not so innocent; it’s actually hurtful. Maybe we need to start by expanding the word disability. I am proud of my disability. To me, disability means being part of something rather than feeling isolated, alienated, and alone. It’s my version of “The Ugly Duckling” fairytale finding my swans — belonging, acceptance, and connection. To me, disability means strength and fortitude, even when things are tough. Disability means overcoming challenges and creatively thinking outside the box for solutions. Disability means owning a piece of myself and recognizing that it’s not all of me. I wear my disability like a badge of honor now. Yes, I have a physical disability. Just as I had to get comfortable and change the definition of disability in my head as something that has strength, that has ability, that has voice, I ask you to help me change the language around disability. Rather than not seeing me “that way,” I ask you to: Acknowledge my difference but don’t treat me as different. Appreciate my lived experience and be curious about it when I share. Understand that I may need accommodation or support, not as a weakness, but as a strength. Also, realize that it can be challenging for me to ask for the support. Help me reset the definition of disability by recognizing its strengths and realizing that disability itself is multifaceted — it can be visible and invisible. I own my disability. I own my difference. I am part of this diverse world.

    Single-Handedly Reaching for the Gold as a Paralympian in Tokyo

    Paralympic dual-sport athlete Dani Aravich’s sprint to Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 By Dani Aravich, National Ability Center Volunteer and 2020 Paralympian I came into this world different. Born without a left forearm, I’ve learned not to let my differences inhibit me from my dreams. Growing up, I found myself enthralled by a multi-sport athlete’s fast-paced, exciting lifestyle. That led me to compete in various sports from soccer to softball, volleyball, downhill skiing, and basketball. Being an all-season athlete prepares you at a young age to be persistent, diligent and flexible. Transitioning between different sports instilled habits in me early on that allowed me to thrive as an adaptive athlete, and encouraged me to pursue a Paralympic career in both Winter and Summer Paralympic Games. (Dual) Road to Gold After discovering I was eligible for the Paralympics in 2019, I began training to compete in track and field. Soon after, I was invited to a Paralympic training camp for Nordic skiing by a Team USA developmental coach. Encouraged by my family, mentors, coaches and teammates, I decided to continue competing in both sports. I utilized skill sets from both disciplines to succeed simultaneously. Running the 400 meter in track and field for the Tokyo 2020 Games, while also skiing up to 15 kilometers as a Nordic skier leading up to Beijing, requires multiple training approaches that correlate with one another. The endurance, speed, and agility for both events are difficult to master separately, but the prospect of competing as a dual athlete drove me to be my best. My mindset of perseverance was not acquired for the sole purpose of training for the Paralympics. For three seasons, I competed in both cross country and track and field at Butler University. Developing assets like time management, composure and nimbleness is not easy. The lessons I learned through my collegiate athletic career have prepared me for this season of life as I continue to train and compete in hopefully what will be two Paralympic games and perhaps more in the future. Giving to the Next Generation Qualifying for my first Paralympics spurred my motivation to keep working towards the larger goal of competing in additional Paralympic games throughout my career. Not only does this achievement stoke the passion within me to train for the games, but it also lights a fire for me to encourage and mentor the next generation of adaptive athletes. My biggest hope is that their goals and expectations of the adaptive sports arena exceed my own. The National Ability Center (NAC) has helped me channel my passion for the future Paralympian. My involvement with the leading adaptive recreation organization started with an introduction to the NAC at a networking event for my previous job with the Utah Jazz. The NAC serves as an outlet for training, recovery and connection for those with various disabilities. Their mission breaks the recreational barriers for athletes with disabilities, like myself. After my first introduction, I reached out to inquire about volunteer opportunities where I could use my athletic skills to nurture upcoming athletes. That first encounter led to me becoming a volunteer assistant Alpine ski instructor. Today, when I’m not training, I continue to serve as an assistant instructor for both NAC’s Alpine and Nordic skiing programs, challenging my participants to make tough sacrifices now in order to achieve greatness later. Looking forward After recently fulfilling my dream of representing Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, which are taking place a year later than they were supposed to, I am tasked with the challenge of resetting my mind to prepare for the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympic Games. After a grueling period of training for the Summer Games, I look forward to a moment of rest before preparing for the 2024 Summer season. As a multi-sport athlete, it is often difficult to unwind. Constant movement means constant development, but athletes also have to remember that stillness is just as beneficial. Following the upcoming Games in Beijing, I am eager to sprint into Paris 2024, but on a personal note, post-Paralympics season, I plan to take several trips with friends and loved ones, and allow for some medical attention that I have been putting off for quite a while. Being a Paralympic competitor is the ultimate privilege for any athlete, and being able to compete in both winter and summer games means I can show the world that Team USA is a force to be reckoned with. I’ve always known that my abilities do not restrict me from being powerful, and that they catapult me into reaching new heights and crushing unthinkable goals. My work with the National Ability Center has only proved me right, and I know the mindset of power in all abilities encourages the next generation.