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Making The Best Of It
By Lowell Martin, Attorney and Warm Springs Alumnus
THE first plan in the battle to return to a life as near to normal as possible must come with a new and sensible point of view, as any successfully rehabilitated Polio will readily testify, and that fact cannot be emphasized too often. Self must be forgotten in so far as thoughts turn to self-pity; all consideration of the bitter disappointment of one's present situation must be pushed from the mind; and yet every detail of one's physical weaknesses and limitations must be considered; the physical aspects of the case must be remembered only in planning a sensible program of endeavor which can be undertaken with definite and practical hopes of success. Because one has two good arms left out of a wrecked body, it does not necessarily follow that one can be a cartoonist or a draftsman, nor does it profit one to worry about the various jobs which are impossible now that the legs are useless. The attention should be diverted instead to the definite problem of classifying all the possible trades, professions or businesses which are open, or can be opened, to one in a wheelchair with two poor legs but having arms and hands that function. This seems elementary, but able-bodied persons all too often enter into a life work which seems attractive to them and with only a casual thought as to what they are fitted to do, and the inevitable result is failure or that half-failure type of person who is in the wrong job. So much more important it is then for Polios to plan carefully their future.
There are few trades or professions from which one is barred, and indeed, as the field is surveyed, many unusual cases are brought to notice. Some are, or are trying to be, lawyers, accountants, teachers, writers, stenographers, or are in a multitude of business fields in a clerical or managerial capacity, and through all of their individual cases runs the one explanation for their present or possible success in their work -- diligence!
Often these individuals are not brilliant of mind or particularly talented, but they have found that success for them is possible solely through faithful attention to details and, you might say, the drudgery of the particular vocation which the average able-bodied person is inclined to shirk. To put it bluntly, they have been able to compete with the able-bodied person because they have done a better job than their more fortunate fellow workman.
The greatest handicap to be faced by the individual polio has always been in obtaining the education and knowledge necessary for the particular field of business or trade to be undertaken, but even this problem is easier to solve now that the state's social recognition of the problem of the handicapped is becoming more generous. Prominent national and state universities are offering thorough and comprehensive correspondence courses which cover the high school and college courses of study, and this opportunity is grasped by many who are unable to attend universities or trade schools, by reason of their handicap. These persons must quickly gain the more courageous point of view that knowledge and education are not the sole heritage of our system of formal education -- it is more difficult to study alone, but it is not impossible, and furthermore, there is a satisfying accomplishment derived from such study which cannot be equalled by personal attendance in any school building. In addition to the courses offered by correspondence, the respective states have in their educational systems varying programs directed toward the assistance of the physically handicapped. The Federal government has led the way with an act of Congress which assists the states in providing a vocational rehabilitation service as part of their educational system. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have a Vocational Rehabilitation Department, in the state board of education departments at their respective capitols, and if any interested polio, or other physically handicapped person wishes to take advantage of this service offered by his state, he should write to the above department at his state capitol. The various states, through their vocational rehabilitation departments, seek to contact the physically handicapped of working age and render them all assistance in securing a proper choice of vocation as well as in securing for them that education or training needed to enter whatever vocation seems promising for the particular case. To many a handicapped person, this service is truly a godsend, by the expert counsel of the representative of the department and by the training which the department can secure for the individual, either by paying tuition or by providing textbooks where this is necessary.