In an interview with the New York Times, between Stephen Hawking and journalist Claudia Dreifus, she asked Stephen Hawking, “Given all you’ve experienced, what words would you offer someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, perhaps A.L.S.( amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)?”
Hawking, answered: “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”
Hawking’s progressive and positive attitude toward disability here exemplifies everything ABLE TOO works toward every day: A world in which people with disabilities can achieve a better education the special way without discrimination and barriers; the notion that disability isn’t a taboo or curse or a pass to disappointment, rather it’s a natural part of life.
Lets elaborate on those his words of wisdom:
- Concentrate on the things your disability doesn’t prevent you from doing well
: So many disabled persons don’t really take the time to see on what there can do. Instead, there spend time on the things there can’t do, while regretting or blaming others for their misfortune. But every one is unique and with a particular talent capable of contributing in the society. Education is for everybody irrespective of abilities. Hawking is a clear example to follow. We belief that one of you in the ABLE TOO community will bring a positive impact to the word. So when you concentrate on the things you can do, your disabilities will instead attract important persons towards you like it did to Hawking
- Don’t regret the things (your disability) interferes with:
Hawking was diagnosed with A.L.S. in 1963 at the age of 21. Following his diagnosis he resisted using a wheelchair. Becoming a person with a disability later in life (as opposed to being born with a disability) was hard on him. However, he eventually let go of regret and focused on what he was good at and what he was put on this earth to do. He embraced assistive technology to continue his ground-breaking work, and had a hand in developing and advancing the programs he used. Later he became a vocal disability advocate, taking part in the Charter for the Third Millennium on Disability, which stated: “In the 21st century, we must insist on the same human and civil rights for people with disabilities as for everyone else.”
- Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically:
Disabilities is also an experience of been human. Despite our abilities, all have the capacity to reach for our wildest dreams, live life to the fullest and make the greatest impact positively to the world – not despite perceived limitations, sometimes because of them. It is what makes us unique, genuine and complete. Hawking calls us all to not be a barrier to ourselves while navigating difficulties in life. Do not stifle the dreams you were born to realize.
For Hawking, the limits of what was possible were vast. He made us consider not just the wonder of the stars, but the wonder of our existence. We remember him as one of the great minds of our time, but I hope we also remember him as an important figure in the timeline of disability history.
I’ll leave you with another wonderful quote from this same interview: “Obviously, because of my disability, I need assistance. But I have always tried to overcome the limitations of my condition and lead as full a life as possible. I have travelled the world, from the Antarctic to zero gravity. Perhaps one day I will go into space”.