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Disability

Identity

A woman with a disability gets real about dating and sex. She's funny and honest.

Her candor is delightful, her message is important, and her jokes are great

Photo courtesy of Danielle Sheypuk.

Models can be different and still amazing.


"So just recently I went out on a Match.com date, and it was fantastic," begins Dr. Danielle Sheypuk in her TEDx Talk.

If you've ever been on a bunch of Match.com dates, that opening line might make you do a double take. How does one get so lucky?!


But don't get too jealous. Things quickly went downhill two dates later, as most Match.com dates ultimately do. This time, however, the reason may not be something that you've ever experienced.

Intrigued? I was too. So here's the story.

dating, disability, psychologist, community

Gorgeous!

Photo from Dr. Sheypuk's Instagram account, used with permission.

She's a licensed clinical psychologist, an advocate, and a model — among other things. She's also been confined to a wheelchair since childhood. And that last fact is what did her recent date in.

On their third date over a romantic Italian dinner, Sheypuk noticed that he was sitting farther away from her than usual. And then, out of nowhere, he began to ask the following questions:

"I've been thinking, how are you gonna be a mother? How are you gonna do the duties that's gonna be required of you? And even as wife — how ... I'm not sure how this is gonna work."

Used to this line of inquiry, she had the perfect quippy reply: "Well that's simple: I'm just gonna hire someone like every other New Yorker."

But despite her witty answer, he'd already made up his mind. She never heard from him again.

"I tried to convince myself that this was like any other relationship, but deep down I knew the reality. Who wants to date someone in a wheelchair?"

Dr. Sheypuk knows that that single question is evidence of a really serious problem —not just on the dating scene, but in society in general.

Society has factored out an entire group of potential romantic partners: people with disabilities.

dating picture, dateability, sexuality, glamour, sex

Smiles and looking good :)

Photo courtesy of Danielle Sheypuk.

In her words:

"We are completely left out of the dating picture. Society, media included, seems to ignore the fact that we have the same emotional needs and desires as everyone else. Is this injustice born out of the concept of the poster child and his or her duty to induce pity to raise money?

Or maybe it's a conclusion drawn form mainstream porn where we have actors performing, like, gymnastic stunts with the stamina that none of us have of bucking broncos and jackrabbits.”

Um, yes. So much yes. She continues:

"The silent message: The more in shape your body, the better the sex. The unspoken conclusion: If you have a disability, you are too sick to have sex.

The silent message: The more in shape your body, the better the sex. The unspoken conclusion: If you have a disability, you are too sick to have sex.

"Now let's look at the continuum in our society where sexual is measured. On the one hand, we have humans that are the ultimate sex appeal object. So on that end, we have Victoria Secret models, Playboy centerfolds, people like that.

On the complete opposite end, we have people with physical disabilities. And it seems like the more we deviate from this ultimate sex icon, the more desexualized we become, the more taboo the topic, and the more damaging the consequences.

Now, for most people there are quick fixes, right? We have Hair Club for Men, Botox, Spanx, butt implants. But for people with disabilities, there are no quick fixes. There is no magic pill."

"And we are hit hard.”

Watch the rest of Dr. Sheypuk's talk to hear her important insights about what dating and relationships are like when a person has a disability — and how much of society is limiting itself.

This article originally appeared on 07.22.15

Identity

Blind Masterchef champ reveals how she pulls off amazing meals by wearing a body cam

"It's like any other challenge in life; you just face it head on and hope for the best."

Image pulled from YouTube video.

Christine Ha competes on "Masterchef."

There is one question chef Christine Ha fields more than any other.

But it's got nothing to do with being a "Masterchef" champion, New York Times bestselling author, and acclaimed TV host and cooking instructor.

The question: "How do you cook while blind?"


Ha has a rare autoimmune disease that attacked her spinal cord and optic nerve. She started losing her vision in 2004 while she was in her 20s.

Ha compares her vision loss to "looking at a very foggy mirror after a hot shower." After her diagnosis, she worried she'd have to give up cooking. It was an interest she was just beginning to explore and one she had a serious talent and passion for. Instead of shying away from the kitchen, Ha decided to learn to navigate her new reality.

"It's like any other challenge in life; you just face it head on and hope for the best," she said in one of her recent videos.

blindness, chef, culinary, story, connection

Ha started losing her vision in 2004.

Image pulled from YouTube video.

A seasoned chef, Ha leans into her other senses to bring her culinary creations to life.

In a video for her YouTube channel, Ha wears a GoPro camera while expertly preparing a mouthwatering meal of steamed whole snapper with black bean sauce and blistered green beans. She describes it as a "typical weeknight meal," the very thought of which separates home cooks from Masterchefs.

Watch Christine Ha make a delicious dinner ... just maybe not while you're hungry.

Ha is patient, taking her time to feel, smell, prep, and cut ingredients.

She sometimes uses adaptive tools, but much of her cooking is done by touch. She deftly guides her knife to accomplish intricate cuts.

Just like a sous chef in a professional kitchen, sometimes Ha's partner lends a quick hand.

Ha uses cooking, food, and telling her story to connect and communicate with people around her.

Preparing and sharing meals is a great way to unite people and celebrate what makes each of us unique. Plus, you get to eat tasty food with your favorite people. And if it's Gordon Ramsay approved, it's that much sweeter.

Watch and learn a little more about Christine Ha in the video below:

This article originally appeared on 05.26.17

Identity

Tori Roloff shares how she talks to her 5-year-old son with dwarfism about being different

The “Little People, Big World" mama says, "I WANT him to know he’s different.”

The Roloff family from "Little People, Big World"

It isn’t easy having to explain to a child who is different that they aren’t quite like other children. Most parents would probably prefer to downplay the situation, saying "It's no big deal. You aren’t quite the same as the other children, but everyone is different.”

However, Tori Roloff, 31, star of the TLC’s long-running “Little People, Big World,” has decided to go the other route. She’s asking her 5-year-old son, Jackson, to lean into his uniqueness and use it to help others.

Tori is married to Zach Roloff, 32, who’s been a star of “Little People, Big World” for 24 seasons. Zach and Tori have three children: Josiah and Lilah, 3, and Jackson, 5. All three of them have achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism.


In an Instagram post, Tori shared how she is helping her son embrace his uniqueness.

“I feel like Jackson (and others) are starting to notice that something is different about him,” she wrote. "At Jackson’s first soccer game, the other team was asking why he was so small. Purely out of curiosity I believe—not bullying or being malicious—just curious."

Jackson told his mother about the questions during the game, and she was quick on her feet with a thoughtful answer.

"It stuck with him enough to tell me on the side line though. I told him 'that’s how God made you, now show them how fast you are!' He then proceeded to score a goal, and I can’t tell you how stoked we were," she wrote.

Tori hopes that Jackson will embrace his size and use it to help others just like his family has done by increasing awareness about the challenges that people with dwarfism face through their TV show. The show also showed how all people, no matter their size, are much more alike than they are different.

"He’s starting to notice that he’s different and that’s hard to cope with—however, I WANT him to know he’s different. But maybe not in the way he thinks he is," she wrote.

She then described her innermost hopes for her son.

"Jackson I pray that you notice that you are different,” she wrote. “That God has set you apart from all other people. I pray you’re different in how you see and love others. I pray that you’re different in the choices you make to keep God close to your heart. I pray you’re different in how you solve problems and arguments. I pray that you think differently about how the world works and adaptations that can be made. I pray you see your differences and use them to change the world. You are different, kid. Different than any kid I’ve ever met. You are one of a kind and I am so stinking proud to be your mom.”

There is no one right way to talk to our children about the challenges they face in life. But It’s valuable for people like Tori, who has a very unique parenting situation, to share how she handles difficult topics, because it gives us more tools to use in the oh-so-tough but oh-so-rewarding job of parenting.

Identity

Hardware store employee builds parallel bars so a boy with cerebral palsy can learn to walk

"Just go the extra mile. And it just may reward you 100 times back.”

A sunny day at Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse.

A story first shared by Fox 29 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the epitome of customer service that goes above and beyond.

Jessica Getty and her husband, Mark, went to a Lowe’s hardware store in Brookhaven, Pennsylvania, earlier this month to buy materials to help their 5-year-old son, Will, make a significant leap in his development. They were looking to buy PVC pipes to build parallel bars so he could learn to walk.

"He was born very prematurely, just 23 weeks, so as a result, he has quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy," Jessica told Fox 29. People with spastic cerebral palsy have difficulty controlling muscles in their arms, legs, trunk and face, making walking difficult.

The Gettys hoped their son could learn to walk by training on a set of parallel bars that would help him safely remain upright while he moved his legs and feet. “One of our goals for William is to get him walking,” Jessica told Fox 29.


When the family got to the PVC pipe section, they asked Lowe’s employee Dave Urban for help, and he quickly realized that the job would require more than cutting a few pieces. "I thought I would just be finding some fittings, making a couple of cuts, and I saw Will, and I found out what we were building," Urban explained while holding back tears.

Urban got to work cutting and fitting together pipes for the Gettys’ project, and over the course of 30 minutes, he created a parallel bar device that matched their exact specifications.

William even got out of his chair and successfully tested the bars out in the PVC pipe aisle. Urban was moved by the youngster's drive to learn to walk. “I think you saw that courageous smile of his,” Urban said, adding that he felt a “sense of pride” seeing William stand using the bars he built him. “It keeps getting me,” he said, overcome with emotion.

When parents are raising a child with special needs, they need all the support they can get, and the Gettys were moved that a stranger stepped up to help. “It was really cool,” Mark said, according to The Guardian, with his wife adding, “It was just kindness that touched us and really meant the world to us.”

It’s the type of practical kindness that may significantly impact William’s life.


Since they brought the parallel bars home, Jessica told The Guardian that William has been diligently working with them to learn to walk. The parallel bars help him to step forward, side to side and to pull himself up to stand. After just one day, he could use the bars to walk about 10 feet across the family’s kitchen floor.

Urban says the opportunity to help means as much to him as it did to the Getty family. He hopes his actions will inspire others to help when they can as well.

“Just go the extra mile,” Urban said. “And it just may reward you 100 times back.”