Athens Residents Challenged by Choice

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20160414_181401The best way to understand the day-to-day challenges of disabled people is to become disabled yourself.  That’s the purpose behind Challenged by Choice, an annual day-long event sponsored by the Athens County Commission on Disabilities.

This year, seven community leaders took up the challenge, submitting themselves to disabilities in an effort to better understand the obstacles faced by those with disabilities and consider solutions to infrastructure problems. The participants were assigned disabilities including hearing or vision loss, dementia and mobility and other physical difficulties.

Following their day of disability, the participants came together at the Athens Community Center to share their experiences.

CHOICEAthens City Planner Paul Logue went through the challenge without his glasses.

“It was a very difficult experience for me,” he said. “I sat at my desk working through my emails and trying to read documents and I had a very difficult time doing that. I had to type up some minutes from the city’s commission, a project that typically takes me about 15 minutes, it took me about an hour and a half.”

Ohio University Women’s Volleyball Coach Deane Webb had to struggle with his wheelchair disability.webb

“I started my day after my wife dressed me by putting myself on the floor,” he said.

Compounding his problems was the lack of handicap access to his house.

“I went face down two flights of stairs, sliding myself down one hand at a time,” he said. “Gravity was my friend.”

His wife and daughter helped him into his truck to go to work.  Although his challenge slowed him down during the day, getting into back his wheelchair was easy as Webb’s assistant coach helped.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson participated with the mental disability of dementia. He said the malady was near to him as his mother suffered with the disease. He said communication was the biggest challenge and shared how difficult it was for him to tell his wife to get him dinner.  His two four-year-old daughters also noticed his disability especially at bath time when he let their water get cold.

Those with real disabilities told the group how they face their challenges every day.

dikisRose Dikis was a doctoral student at Ohio University when her dream was cut short by a car accident.  She is now visually impaired and needs assistance to walk. She said, she sometimes walks past people without recognizing them.

“You get the feeling that people look past you or don’t look at you,” Dikis said.

jageMary Jageman, also suffering from partial and temporary memory loss, told of her inability to remember common things.

“I said to [husband] Larry, I can’t find the bathroom,” she said. “I can’t remember how the bathroom is attached to the house – I don’t know how to get there from the kitchen.”

It was only when she had to ask her husband where to find other common items that she began to realize the severity of her problems.

“It’s not easy. I cry sometimes,” She choked as tears rolled down her cheeks.

Judge George P. McCarthy of the Athens County Court of Common Pleas; Chris Knisely, Athens City Council; and Dean of the Scripps College of Communications, Scott Titsworth, all took part in the challenge.