Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lawyers and the Masters of the Universe

The first thing you see when you look at me is my wheelchair. Over the years I have changed in so many ways it seems, internally, but to many I will always be what they see on the outside. "When can I finally expect respect?"- I asked a friend of mine when I was sharing with her my frustrations about perceptions of my disability. "You can't"- she said, "You must demand it". And I think she's right. It became a bit of a cliche to talk about education as the great equalizer, something that levels the plane, but I think that's true. I have been given the tools to raise above my disability with my God-given intelligence, wit and knowlege. The greatest and the missing piece was granted by the Florida Bar. I am not an intimidating person when you look at me. It is funny however how people all of the sudden sit up and listen when they learn that I'm an attorney. That I have been given this authority by the State to alter people's lives. That I'm a professional and I mean business. Not that I want to scare people into submission or that I enjoy seeing people impressed by me, but it is funny how perceptions change at that very moment. It was surprising to me at first. I was trying to resolve an issue with a local transit system in which disabled patrons were given false information about what ADA allowed them to be provided with, and apparently this was going on for years. Initially they were dismissive but that all changed when I told them I'm an attorney. Attitutes turn into more apology driven panic. Because I know what I know and I will not be lied to. Funny thing. I didn't have to do much to get there. No muscles flexing or angry tone. In 1980's cartoon, "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" a boy gets turned into a superhero with the help of a magical sword when he utters "I have the Power". My law license feels a bit like that sword, a great accomplishment and a great responsibility and I have the power to better people's lives. To help them raise above their disabilities. I have no control over what people see what they look at me but they will respect me.

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