Elizabeth Wampler’s Blog
Elizabeth Wampler’s blog
My name is Elizabeth Wampler, and I’ve been married to a guy named Steve for 20 years. We have two kids and live on an enchanting island near San Diego, CA. Steve has cerebral palsy, and has always used an electric wheelchair to get around.
When I first met my husband, I didn’t have any experience with people with disabilities. I didn’t know how to interact with them at all, in fact. The truth is, I felt sorry for my husband, and I assumed he was sad, and that he was having a really hard life. The joke’s on me, he was and has always had a great life.
As I got to know Steve, I forgot about the disability. I had been nervous. He was disabled, and I was sorry about that. I remember thinking I was going to keep my mouth shut, because if I didn’t, what if I said something, unintentionally, that made him even more sad than I assumed he already was. (Joke’s on my, he was happy all the while).
So there was an elephant in the room. A big, wheelchair shaped elephant, and it had a speech impediment.
I had questions to ask, but there was no way I was going to do that. What if I offended him or worse, hurt his feelings. I wasn’t willing to possibly willing to risk that.
I assumed he was sad. I was wrong. I assumed he was having a really rough/ horrible life. I was wrong.
I assumed he was “simple” because he had a speech impediment. Nope.
Plus, I didn’t know the initials! (CP, MD, MS CF. etc.) Which one meant what? I had no idea! Which initials meant he had a hard time breathing? Which ones were degenerative? Which ones meant he was in constant therapy, on lots of medicine? I didn’t know the initials!
And I didn’t want to pry. What if, what if, what if? I didn’t have the courage to ask, and I also knew I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know and who didn’t want to ask. I suspected there might be millions of us. I was stuck because I couldn’t even start, because, again, what if I hurt his feelings by asking even that first, even very gentle question?
My husband taught me everything over time. As I got braver, I asked more. He invited me to do that, and so I did. (These were pre-dating days, we had a platonic relationship at the time, but I adored him as a person, and he was generous while I was learning).
All these years later, and thousands of observations later, I learned that my fears are common to many of us. Plainly put, I now want to get the elephant out of the room. I want it for all of us.
So here I am. I have an invitation to all of you.
Have a disability
Have a loved one with a disability
You care about and have compassion for people with disabilities, but sometimes feel uncomfortable around them, and wish you could get beyond that… here we go.
I want this stage to be a place where we talk about a lot of things around this subject, so that we can get on to the business of getting to know each other better.
Also, a few terms to help us collectively abbreviate. I promise it helps when we are telling our stories:
A Compassionate or a “C” is anyone who cares about people with disabilities.
A PWD is a person with a disability
A CWD is a child with a disability.
The back story.
I met Steve, and as above, had no idea how to interact with him. After time, I learned, and after time, we got married and had our two kids. While Steve is an environmental engineer by trade, he switched his career to send kids with disabilities to camp.
(www.wamplerfoundation.org and also www.stephenjwampler.com)