More MS news articles for Jan 2002

How Can People with Disabilities Remain Both Mobile and Safe?

According to Richard Diamond, a man living with spina bifida, self-defense does not start with the physical. It starts in your head.

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Jan 2002
By Richard P. Diamond, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Second Degree Black Belt Edited by Caryn S. Kaufman

As a person with a disability, you want to be able to go anywhere like everybody else, and not feel you're easy prey. You want to be as confident and secure as possible when you get on the street, whether or not you are a wheelchair user.

Nonetheless, people with disabilities are vulnerable to attack and often are seen as easy targets. So how can you remain both mobile and safe? Here are the basics.

Self-defense does not start with the physical. The key is to believe in You. This applies to every child, teenager and adult with a disability. Never believe that you cannot do what others are doing. If you look at someone and say, "I can't do this," then you are giving yourself an out, an excuse to be less effective than someone else. It is important you have a positive outlook and feel you can take care of yourself.

On the physical side there are things that people with disabilities can do -- that even a child can do. When someone grabs you, it is important to understand his vulnerable targets: throat, eyes, groin, kneecaps, and shins. It is important for someone who has a disability to use whatever physical ability he/she has. For example, "OK, I can't use one arm, but I can use the other. I am not totally able to protect myself, but I am physically able with one arm to do something to help myself."

It is common for people with disabilities to have a negative perception about their ability to defend themselves. Many people feel this way because they have never had anyone tell them or show them they are capable. The people who help you learn to defend yourself can only inspire you to the degree that you let yourself be inspired. While ability is in all of us, energy, desire and enthusiasm are not. Understand that you do not have to be an easy prey, and that disability is not synonymous with victimization.

There are progressive stages to self-defense. First, you have to understand your environment and how to protect yourself with environmental awareness. When an assailant attacks, he is looking for a victim, not an opponent.

The next step is understanding that a person with a disability is seen as easier prey than others. The elements of surprise and resistance can be especially effective coming from such person.

Finally, knowing others are behind you saying, "You can do it," is essential. Those who surround people with disabilities can provide the encouragement needed to be confident in yourself and your abilities to meet whatever comes your way.

About Richard P. Diamond

I am a disabled person with spina bifida since birth. When I was in elementary school, most of my activities centered on watching television. In school, there were always a few bullies who were constantly harassing me. The school did nothing to stop the teasing and I shied away and took it. Fortunately no physical altercations occurred.

But when I reached junior high school, these same bullies became more physically aggressive. During the first half of the school year, the school again did nothing. Neither did I. I was told by a family member that I had to confront the ringleader. After seven years of enduring verbal abuse and doing nothing, I became fed up. I realized that the bullies were all talk and that the only way I would feel good about myself was to deal directly with the problem.

So one day I approached the leader and challenged him to a fight. To my amazement and anger, he refused in front of the class. His teasing stopped. That day I learned what kind of person a bully is and to this day I have not tolerated being demeaned.

When I entered high school, there was another wise guy who tried to put me down. I knew nothing about the martial arts, but I knew it was worth taking a chance. To his surprise I made him part of the school window, pushing him into the glass. After that show of assertiveness, I never shied away again. If someone tried to put me down, I told him in front of a crowd that I would not tolerate his remarks. I was never harassed again. I experienced a new feeling: self-respect. This was due in large part because I had acquired the reputation of never backing down from a confrontation.

After high school I went on to college obtain my B.A. degree and later my masters in social work. As a professional I have worked for many years with children of all ages, teaching self-respect and tolerance rather than violence.

Over the past five years I have developed and implemented a program called "Safety Shield"-- a hands-on interactive program that teaches people how to identify and avoid violence before it occurs, using what I have learned as a professional social worker, martial artist and from my own life experiences.

During this past winter I wrote and produced a 45-minute video called "Accessible Safety" on the concepts taught by the Safety Shield program. It is an easy step-by-step interactive video that explains the importance of exercise, preparedness before going out, awareness of one's environment, and ways to protect oneself if attacked.

Here are a few things that you will learn by watching "Accessible Safety "- self-defense for people with disabilities:
 

For more information:

http://www.accessiblesafety.com
201-925-6278 for any questions, setting up seminars or lectures

"Accessible Safety" costs $19.95 plus $4.00 for shipping and handling
Credit card orders can go to: http://www.amazon.com

To pay by check or money order, make payable to Safety Shield and mail to:

Richard Diamond
c/o Accessible Safety Tape
12 Sulak Lane #31
Park Ridge, N.J. 07656