“Disability is not a ‘brave struggle’ or ‘courage in the face of adversity’ ...disability is an art, an ingenious way to live.” Neil Marcus, artist
Honoring People with Disabilities Wall
Dr Christopher Craig
My disability has had impact in my life in different ways. Born with a condition called Sturge-Webber Syndrome, at six months of age became completely blind in my left eye and by the age of 16 became totally blind in both eyes.
At age 12, I went to the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis for a couple of years. While being away from my family was difficult, I was able to learn the compensatory skills in Braille reading and orientation and mobility that equipped me well for a successful four years of high school at Nixa.
I think independent living is a state of mind, or how one views personal freedom and happiness. With support from my wife Vicki, I was able to enjoy a great deal of academic success through completion of graduate degrees in education at Drury, Missouri State, and Vanderbilt Universities. My accomplishments would not have mattered much without my family.
I have probably experienced more challenges socially with my port wine birthmark on the left side of my face and lower part of my body, than the visual impairment. Clearly, growing up in a pre-Americans with Disabilities Act era, I faced my share of challenges including discrimination in the application for teaching positions. Early in my career, I developed a passion for work with children who are blind and I think that work above anything else I have done has been the most rewarding for me. I have always found myself in positions of leadership both at the community and state level simply because I was an advocate for children who have low incidence disabilities.
My first community board was SCIL. I was very moved by the agency and its commitment to self-advocacy, which in my mind is the key to success. Recently, my work with the ARC and Vision Rehabilitation Center of the Ozarks boards as well as the Community Foundation of the Ozarks has been important to not only people with disabilities, but in the promotion of rural education initiatives and addressing the challenges of rural poverty.
I am proud of the collective efforts of advocates in Springfield who fought for better opportunities for those with disabilities, including MSU’s impact on the state and the region in the preparation of teachers for work with children who are visually impaired and the support from Drury in the establishment of VRCO, which is the only center based service for infants and toddlers who are blind and their families. I think, in general, there is still much work to be done in the area of employment opportunities, particularly high school students with disabilities to have part-time work experiences prior to graduation. I have been very blessed to have grown up in the Ozarks. I have not found my rural roots to be limiting in any way. I think folks in this neck of the woods generally have a commitment to their own, including those of us with disabilities.
Contact us for a nomination form or visit http://swcil.org/pages/view/honoring_people_with_disabilities.