Chris was born in 1954 with Spina Bifida where his neural tube (which develops the spinal cord) was opened and broke, causing the spinal cord to not develop properly while he was still in the womb.
The type of Chris’ Spina Bifida is called myelomeningocele, in which his spinal cord was exposed to the air at birth. Consequently, he was born paralyzed from the waist down and used braces/crutches, and as he’s aged he’s using a wheelchair more.
He was encouraged by parents and doctors throughout his live as normally as possible and now at 60+ years of age has a wealth of knowledge to share. He also grew up prior to any of the accessibility laws in the US, so his story is quite fascinating.
Location: Stuarts Draft, VA, United States
Watch the interview:
Notable quotes from the interview:
I was raised in a time when if you had a disability, even though we had a center for children, there really wasn’t a lot of things to do socially. Now, the fact that I went to normal public schools meant that I wanted to do a lot of things that the kids did, like you know. You couldn’t play football because you weren’t fast enough. But I could figure out a way to play baseball. The way we play baseball you know, I could sit on the ground and catch something that somebody came to me and I could have a pretty good pitching arm. I could throw. But the way I batted was always bat with one hand and somebody else ran for me, and then the kids never minded doing that. The problem I recognize now is that you never got to play in official things like Little League and stuff like that, because they weren’t going to make the accommodations for you to do that. -Chris
I lost interest in a lot of those social things… until Big Brothers, Big Sisters came along. I signed up to be a Big at the encouragement of one of my workplace associates, and this child expected to do a lot of the things that a Big was supposed to do. And one of those was to go camping. Now, the advantage of being an adult with the job that’s a good paying job is that now you can afford to do…you can go out and buy the technology, and buy the things that allowed you to work around your disability and work with that, so BJ and I would go camping, and you know, we’d go bowling and things like that, and I’ve enjoyed those things.
Becky: He was in a curling league. Chris: That was another thing that this boss at Northrop Grumman afforded me. He was on a curling team and he, he said, “How would you like to sub for me?” Okay, wheelchair on ice? Okay I can deal with that, cuz I’m not gonna fall on the ice. That was a lot of fun. Becky: And so, you know, the first day… you know he’d never done it before; and so that morning, he’s getting dressed and he said, well he said, “I just hope I don’t make a fool of myself.” And I said, well look I said, “You know, you’re in a wheelchair, on an ice rink, playing a game you have never played before. What are the odds [laughter] that you’re going to make a fool of yourself.”
I’m competent, physically competent in what I do. I may not be, you know, the most competent engineer in the world or the most competent at this or competent of that; but I’m physically competent at what I do. It’s hard I guess, for somebody to recognize that I’ve been doing it for 61 years. -Chris