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ADA 30주년 기념 Writing Contest [3rd place]

KASEC’s ADA Awareness Writing Contest

3rd place: Daeun Lee (9th grade, Valencia High School)

Prompt: Define disability in your own words

Whenever I went skiing when I was little, I would always find it extraordinary to see one with a disability carefully lower themself onto a chair lift in front of me. With their bright orange vests emblazoned with words such as “DEAF” or “BLIND” and the assistants and instructors who were always at their side, they stood out like a sore thumb in the mountain. As the lift soared above the snow and past the hundreds of people below, I would watch the backs of their heads in the chair in front of me, my feet swinging and fresh air blowing in my face. As they headed down the long, winding slopes without a moment’s hesitation, I gaped in awe and wonder. My young mind had a hard time comprehending how someone who couldn’t see the various obstacles in front of them, or hear the worried voices yelling, “Watch out for that bump!”, or even have their own two feet to stand on could be capable of skiing just as well as those privileged enough to be born without any barriers.

            As I grew older, I began to have a better understanding of the diverse world around me, books and movies celebrating our differences being key factors. One of my all-time favorites is “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio, which I’ve read at least twelve times and watched the movie on quite a few occasions. It follows the life of Auggie Pullman, a young boy born with facial differences, as he goes to a public school for the first time. Throughout the movie, the audience meets many characters who all play a significant role in Auggie’s journey. Although I can never fully empathize with those who are disabled, “Wonder” allowed me to get a closer look at the way they are viewed and treated by others, as well as themselves. I was able to see how Auggie dealt with the judgment he faced and the fact that to others, he would never be considered “ordinary”. I watched how he was teased for his unique features and pushed down because apparently, his face defined whether or not he was as smart as other classmates. I was able to follow the moments in his life, from the bullying and mistreatment to success and acceptance.

With the new information stored in my brain, a new question arose to my mind: Why exactly is having a disability considered a “limitation”? 

In “Wonder”, Auggie was constantly a victim of people who said he couldn’t. To them, he couldn’t possibly be smart enough for the science elective. He couldn’t possibly look normal enough to fit in at school. But why do people just assume that those who are disabled are any less able and free than them?

The sad truth is, our modern society has painted a perspective which states that disability is a restriction. A constraint. A weakness. There are many in the world who still believe that the disabled can never be as strong or smart as other “normal” people.

I also used to think that having a disability would contribute a significant amount of restriction on the ability to live life to the fullest. This was until I watched “Wonder”. After viewing the movie, I now truly understand what it means by having a disability. I believe that the real definition of disability is just another one of life’s trials. It showed me that even if someone has a disability, it doesn’t mean they can’t perform less well as others. It’s not a limitation; it is a test. It’s not a weakness; it’s a sign of strength. Yes, it will be hard to convince others that you can do it. Sometimes you will be faced with unfair judgment. However, that just proves that even if you were born with a disadvantage, you were able to persevere and overcome the difficulties. 

Now, every time I watch a person with a disability ski elegantly down the crystal white slopes of the mountain, I am inspired. Even though it was a very difficult process and most likely took an enormous amount of practice, patience, and time, they were still able to reach the level of success many others cannot. If someone born with a disadvantage can still strive for and achieve success, what’s stopping me? Just as Justin said in Wonder, “It’s not all random, if it really was all random, the  universe would abandon us completely. And the universe doesn’t. It takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can’t see…Maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. The universe takes care of all its birds.” Even if you were born with a disability, it doesn’t make your chance of being successful any less than others. With lots of hard work and determination, everyone has the ability to eventually reach their goals, no matter their circumstances.