|Dean participating in a mini tractor race|
From Dean Hughson:
I suppose in the scheme of things all people can claim to have handicaps. Some are more 'inside' than others. At age 47 I began to have signs of my lymphedema. If I had looked closely at pictures of ...my ancestors I probably could have seen the swollen legs which were signs of my primary lymphedema to come but I didn't see it.
I hadn't had many friends who had physical handicaps before that. Like many I saw people in wheelchairs and thought "Gee, that doesn't look easy" but didn't contemplate I could end up needing assistance to move around. When I was 56 or so I found myself starting to use the free mobility scooters at grocery stores and a year later it became apparent that I too needed to have one. My first one came from a pawnshop; it arrived and we assembled it and I thought "I will only use this when I am traveling overseas" but after a while I realized that it is only a tool and not to be ashamed of it. I progressed to the amazing 34 pound scooter I use now www.travelscoot.com and I have been around the world several times, accompanied by my light metal scooter with the 2 hour continuous use lithium battery. I have endured strange things like in Tokyo where the manager of the airport insisted on having an engineer take it completely apart and after seeing it was harmless ruling I should have someone run along side me whenever I was in the airport; I cranked it up to 6 mph for a long run and my aide quickly decided he wasn't needed. I haven't had a problem there since. I once was asked by someone at an airport "Why do you use a scooter?" like it was a choice. Some people don't understand.
5 years into being an official handicap my job is to maintain my dignity and show respect to all. I always talk to fellow handicaps when I see them; I know the frustration when check in people will talk to my wife instead of me, like I am retarded or something. I am careful to always tell people about my machine if they look like they need one; for many it is a question of pride that keeps them for getting one. Honest, you aren't giving up when you choose to use aids to get around but are helping yourself and saving your family and friends problems of helping you get around. I always kid that there must be a shortage of eligible men in scooters because women flirt with me in it a lot; my wife just laughs when I say that. I am still a man; just a man in a 34 pound mobility scooter. My spirit is strong. Life is good.