My name is Mitchell Barnes. I have Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy which causes me to need a wheelchair to get around. I attended public school and have since graduated from college with a degree in history and a degree in Secondary Education Social Studies. I am currently applying for teaching positions and hope to be employed in the upcoming school year. I always knew that I would finish college and be a productive member of society. I knew my disability would make it challenging but have never seen it as inhibiting me. Since I was required to use a wheelchair, I have experienced the occasional person who assumes that I am mentally as well as physically handicapped. Some see a wheelchair and assume that the person in it suffers from a developmental disability. It has happened less as I have become an adult but it happens from time to time.
One thing that always bothered me was when I was with my parents and someone we meet would as them how I was doing. While I appreciated the gesture, I would rather them ask me directly. Sometimes people would speak to me in a childish sounding voice as they might to someone with a developmental disability. It seems to me that speaking like that to someone who is developmentally disabled would also be insulting. Another thing I do not like is when disabled people are segregated from able-bodied people. I understand that this is not always possible or the best option but I think people being around the disabled more is a positive thing.
I knew my disability would make it challenging but have never seen it as inhibiting me
I have been blessed with a positive disposition and being disabled rarely crosses my mind. I know that many disabled people are not as blessed and suffer from low self-esteem. I think the best way for disabled people to be judged on their intellect is to try to put themselves out there. Find something you have an interest in and try to expose yourself to people more. The more people who see an intelligent person in a wheelchair, the less likely they are to judge them differently. People are much more aware of diversity these days and that is usually a very good thing. It is important to know that everyone suffers from something. I may not have diabetes or suffer from anxiety as some do. Using a wheelchair just happens to be mine.
While the Bible teaches us that we will be made new and be free of our ailments someday it does not mean that disability is a bad thing. God is glorified when we rely on him and work through our situation, whatever that may be. People who are able-bodied may be inspired by a disabled person who doesn’t let their disability stop them from living productive lives. My own disability inspired my father to become involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes and our family to create the DREAM Foundation and The Play Together Playground Project. I credit my parents and their great faith in instilling that faith in me. I believe my faith has helped me with my disability immensely. I know God has a plan for me to succeed in life, despite my disability.
Mitchell graduated with a degree in Secondary Education Social Studies and currently attends Southeast Christian Church with his family.