Dispelling Myths About People with Disabilities: A Community Blog

Theo Braddy examines myths, stereotypes and assumptions about people with disabilities.

The Worthless Leg

Written by Theo Braddy, Community Blogger | Jan 3, 2014 12:13 PM

I have spent 39 years living with a disability. I have worked as Executive Director of the Center for Independent Living of Central PA (CILCP) for more than 25 of those years. The mission of the CILCP is to eliminate and prevent barriers faced by people with diverse disabilities. I am also an Adjunct Professor at Millersville University teaching courses on discrimination and oppression of persons with disabilities. 

I share all of this to let you know that I am convinced that the key thing that causes discrimination and oppression of people with disabilities by people without disabilities is a lack of understanding. This lack of understanding causes people without disabilities to do and say very inappropriate things. This lack of understanding is most prevalent in the medical field. Here is a simple incident that occurred in my life about 10 years ago:

The Worthless Leg

On a routine visit to my doctor, a mass was discovered in my left leg. It was decided a biopsy was needed to determine if it was cancerous. It turned out to be a cancerous tumor and it had to be removed. I recalled going into the Specialist’s office with my wife to get an update and discuss a plan of action even though I already knew it would result in surgery. I was prepared for some surgery but I wasn't prepared for what came out of his mouth - he proceeded to tell my left leg would need to be amputated. As I sat there trying to process what he had just shared with me I will never forget his next words;  he said he didn’t think it should be much of a problem for me since I was paralyzed and the leg didn't work normally any way. I have never forgotten those words!

Myth #8: Paralyzed limbs that are not functional should be amputated. 

Reality: People with disabilities view their bodies as a whole, regardless of paralysis or deformity of those limbs. 

There are many things that people without disabilities just don't know, even professional people like that specialist who eventually amputated what he believed to be a ‘worthless leg’.  It can be something little or something big, but it all comes back to a lack of knowledge and understanding that eventually leads to discrimination and oppression of people with all type of disabilities.

Education is the key!

Yes, my leg didn't work but it was my leg; it was a part of my body!

back to top
  • Pam Auer img 2014-01-03 13:28

    I agree. This happens more than people would expect. When my husband and I were planning to have children, we were told we needed to see his doctor about the chances of us having a child with his disability Muscular Dystrophy. We went to that "sensitive" doctor who specialized in MD and was told our chances were 50/50 but that if they see any concerns from testing while pregnant they could"terminate the Pregnancy". My husband had to literally hold me back because I was so offended that he offered that to an individual stitting there that had that disability (thatI loved dearly), that I was coming to smack him. To me that said my husband's life had no value because he had MD. Needless to say we never went back to that doctor. Ask anyone who knew my love and they will tell you alot about his value. By the way we have a wonderful daughter!

    • Theo Braddy img 2014-01-03 13:43

      You have an awesome daughter. And you know the impact that Mike had on this world!

  • Pam Auer img 2014-01-03 13:28

    Great job getting the message across Theo. All of you is valued!

  • angwiley18 img 2014-01-03 22:27

    Well stated. I completely agree that discrimination of any stems from ignorance. Education is the key to breaking down barriers.

  • claudzilla5 img 2014-01-29 12:39

    Theo, I am so appreciative of your writings here. I want very much to be a person with understanding of those who are different from me, no matter what type of difference it is. And I want to teach my kids to strive for the same. Having little exposure to people with disabilities, I know this is an area where I have a lot to learn. Your posts are opening my eyes! Thank you.

    • Theo Braddy img 2014-01-29 13:40

      Thank you for your comments. Sharing these insights with your kids is wonderful!

  • Give Now

    Support for WITF is provided by:

    Become a WITF sponsor today »

    Support for WITF is provided by:

    Become a WITF sponsor today »