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October 29, 2008

YPs Get Inspired By A Remarkable Woman

Heather Bohrer

You may or may not know that October is disabilities awareness month. The group of YPs that met recently at Cargill to hear Cindy Lawrence’s story realize that for some people, disability awareness is a lifelong thing.

In 1997 medical complications led to Cindy losing both of her legs from just below the knee down. She talked about the impact this has had on her entire life. Her story is one of a strong support network that helped her get through the traumatic weeks and months after the amputation and encouraged her to continue to live a full life. You would think that Cindy’s lifestyle would be diminished. Think again. “I still do pretty much the same things, just differently,” said Cindy. From gaining her SCUBA certification to taking aerobics and riding her bicycle, Cindy has not let her disability keep her from the things she loves. “I golf more now than I did before the amputation!”

YPs were able to ask Cindy questions. We learned that her employer, Cargill, was incredibly supportive, making many adaptations to accommodate Cindy and help her to continue working. We heard about Cindy’s outreach to other amputees and how she encourages people to ask questions they naturally have about her disability. We learned about how her disability affects her day-to-day life. We learned that she still has tough times, but that her husband and children are always there for her.

Meeting Cindy was an inspirational experience. Here are three things that will stick with me:

  • Never make assumptions about someone based on a disability. There is no doubt that disabilities, whether mental or physical, have an impact on individual’s lives. But Cindy’s story shows that people are not fully defined by their disabilities.
  • Wichita is becoming more and more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Sure we have plenty of areas to improve on, but we are headed in the right direction. From the medical and social services communities that provide support services to individuals with disabilities to the employers who make accommodations, our city is making efforts to be the type of community where people can live a quality life regardless of ability.
  • Relationships mean the world. It was a network of people that helped Cindy make it through the tough times. These people were her family, friends and co-workers. It is important that as young professionals and citizens of this community, we actively build relationships. The people you get to know today just might be the people who help you through the biggest challenge of your life. Take advantage of organizations like YPW that provide opportunities to build relationships.

So as disability awareness month comes to a close, take a minute to reflect on Cindy. Are there other stories of people you know that have inspired you?

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