All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2002

Barrier Busters

Disabled group works to break down stereotypes

Sunday, October 27, 2002
By Fred Petrucelli
Log Cabin Staff Writer

Busting Barriers" was the name of the game at Hendrix College on Friday, and several people who are disabled did their best to support the stratagem.

Dressed in black leather jackets to emulate the image of the motorcycle clan, a group of 10 disabled individuals satirized their disabilities before students of Hendrix College and the University of Central Arkansas, calling themselves facetiously "Bad to the Bone."

It was an attempt to put a happy face on a serious problem -- the misconceptions and negative attitudes that surround the disabled.

The event held in Staples Auditorium was led by Sydney Case, a person of multiple disabilities who knows full well the barriers the disabled face.

The title of her presentation was "Creating Acceptance in Our Daily Lives," and a panel of individuals with disabilities fortified that reality by trying to dispel the stereotypes associated with being disabled.

In effect, the presentation, sponsored by the Hendrix Multicultural Development Committee, the Arkansas AccessAbility Council and the Arkansas Independent Living Council, allowed people to "experience" what it is like to have a disability by employing hands-on demonstrations.

Case, born in Pasco, Wash., but educated in Arkansas, is employed by a major corporation hiring and training new employees. She also is the founder and executive director of the Arkansas AccessAbility Council, an organization that helps persons with disabilities find employment, housing and modes of transportation.

Case, who has worked as a human resource manager for the past 30 years, was first faced with a health challenge in 1971 when she was diagnosed with cancer. In 1983, she sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident, and in 1984 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

She continues with what appears to be in constant travail, for in 1999 she suffered the onset of breast cancer, a condition she battles to this day.

Her disabilities aside, she reports that in addition to lecturing and writing for a national magazine and newspapers on the subject of improving the lot of the disabled, she enjoys "dancing," the wheelchair version.

"I founded a dance troupe called 'The Barrier Busters'," she said, adding that the troupe has attended conferences, astounding audiences with its performances. The troupe, hailing from the Russellville area where Case has her home, has performed to audiences in Branson, Mo., Nashville, Dallas and other sites, including Tacoma, Wash.

"It's a fun group of 25 people whose ages range from 12 to 78. The underlying message is that we are all alike on the inside, even if we don't show it on the outside," she said.

Her attitude is rife with poignant and philosophical sayings about the disabled. For example, she says: "The highest courage is to dare to be yourself in the face of adversity. Choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience and truth over popularity: These are the choices that measure your life. Travel the path of integrity without looking back, for there is never a wrong time to do the right thing."

Case's activity, characterized by high energy, has allowed her to serve as a volunteer or member of the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, Childrens' Miracle Network, Special Olympics, Reach to Recovery and many more. She has been married for 29 years and is active in her church and community.

It is her view that people with disabilities are like everyone else with the same needs and responsibilities. "Being sensitive to people with disabilities means treating them with the respect and dignity every person deserves; we want to break the barriers to negative attitudes about the disabled," she asserted with a tone of finality in her voice.

Sitting in a wheelchair, the ebullient Case wears a colorful T-shirt that carries the message: "Just don't sit there, do something." The reverse side says, "Push yourself: do something -- move."

Peggy Vickers, director of the Arkansas Independent Living Council, said, "The main thing is that the disabled are just like you.

As she looked across the stage she saw people afflicted with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, hearing impairness, blindness, mental disabilities, among other problems, all in animated conversation like folks at a coffee klatch.

Case seemed to put a punctuation mark on the event, telling the group: "When you stop moving, you start dying. Don't wallow in self-pity."

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