Since most people cannot truly understand the challenges faced by a blind person, then an artist who cannot see is unimaginable. According to a recent article in the British Columbia publication CBC News, Richard Harlow is that artist.
Richard is joined in the category of exceptional people by Glenda Watson Hyatt. Due to cerebral palsy Glenda cannot speak or walk. Yet she decided to create her own challenge of becoming a public speaker, using her iPad to communicate.
A third candidate for our admiration is Eileen Davidson, coping with rheumatoid arthritis, which she labels as an extremely painful invisible disease.
How Do They Do It?
Richard was midway through his studies in 2010 when he was diagnosed with a rare disease that affected his sight. Now legally blind, Richard refused to succumb to the disease and decided to think creatively. Richard threw himself back into his art with huge success. He calls it breaking the generic rules.
Having a disability has motivated Richard to paint for everyone. His paintings are hung at eye-level making them accessible to people who use mobility devices.
The paintings are composed of bright colors with different textures. Richard says he does not understand why people are not allowed to touch paintings that are on view in art galleries. Therefore, Richard’s paintings are created with a sense of touch and can be enjoyed by the visually impaired.
Glenda Watson Hyatt
Glenda has cerebral palsy. She cannot speak or walk. She relies on two mobile devices. One is an iPad that transmits her voice messages and the other is her motorized scooter.
Glenda agrees that navigating around town with a scooter is challenging, but she says that her bigger challenge lies in trying to communicate with others. Glenda had a fear of public speaking. That was the first hurdle she had to overcome in order to attain her goal of being a motivational speaker. Glenda calls it “delicious irony” that she is successfully defying all odds.
Glenda’s initial speech was a TED talk a month ago. Glenda types her speech on her iPad and plays it back as audio.
Eileen is thirty-three years old but is coping with a debilitating disease usually thought to be associated with people in their later years. Eileen has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disorder.
Rheumatoid arthritis is known to cause severe joint pain. However, most patients experience many other symptoms. They include a lowered immune system. That leaves the patient susceptible to a wide range of recurring infections. Various organs can become inflamed and fatigue can be constant and unavoidable.
Eileen manages to go to the gym and understands that anyone looking at her would not understand the pain and symptoms she is experiencing. She manages to work both as a patient advocate and as a single mom.
Eileen, Glenda and Richard are unique, yet they represent the many people with disabilities highlighted at the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The event was first celebrated by the United Nations in 1992. Its goal has been to foster awareness. Its current goal is to promote capable and creative people like Glenda, Eileen, and Richard into leadership positions.
Glenda reminded us that it is time for the disabled to have equal leadership roles. The annual celebration recognizes the contributions made to communities throughout British Columbia by people with developmental disabilities.