I can’t remember where I heard “diff-abilities” first, either Johnny Knoxville (great supporter of ours and star of “The Ringer“), Eddie Barbanell (Special Olympics athlete, International Board Director and co-star of “The Ringer”) or our Chairman, Tim Shriver.
Good on whomever wants to take credit for it, because I love the phrase as a way to draw attention away from the negative, “can’t do” connotations of “dis” and focus on the point that every single human being has something to offer, some type of ability, something of value to add to the world.
Take Jacob Nawrocki of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’s a Special Olympics Michigan athlete and has Fragile X Syndrome. That’s the lens most people will see him through for the majority of his life – someone with a disability. What most people won’t know until they take the time to talk to him or learn about him, is that he has tremendous abilities at the bowling alley. So tremendous in fact he bowled a perfect 300 game at a recent local Area 11 event in Michigan! A perfect game! That takes tremendous ABILITY. Can you bowl a 300 game? Have you? I know I haven’t. Read the article about his game from The Grand Rapids Press.
To me, that’s one of the best examples of what I try to get people to see when I introduce them to Special Olympics. For most people Jacob is a guy with a disability that holds him back from doing ‘normal’ things. What I want people to see, and what Jacob demonstrates through his ‘diff-ability,’ is that just like you, me, that guy over there and the stranger you’ll meet tomorrow, it’s so important to see people for their ability, what they can do, what they have contributed to the world, what value they have to offer – because EVERY single person has that in them – the challenge is to allow yourself to not just find it, but to see it first above all else about each person you meet.