Each month we take a moment to highlight a DEC Consumer, their experience with our Center and our staff, and their Success. This month we spoke with Linda Winters Malin, nicknamed Lindy (for the Lindy Hop Dance).
Years ago, I became disabled in a moment. What followed were years of surgeries and my focus was simply – LIVE. A big outing was a trip to the grocery store, the doctor’s office or church.
Before my physical challenge, I was a goal oriented person. I lived my life by a schedule and packed every moment full. That all changed and lead to years of withdrawal.
I sought out services for my physical disability through Changing Hands. My initial meetings with Terry Heffelfinger of Changing Hands were actually at the Disability Empowerment Center.
I came with my husband and the first face we saw was pleasant and professional – I’m sure everyone’s been reassured by Katrina!
Then, as I was coming around the corner, I heard the distinct voice of a longtime friend, Gina Baum. I couldn’t believe my luck! After Terry and I went through so much equipment fitting and testing, Gina graciously invited me back to her office to process all of this support!
My world opened up that day and we were like a little rolling paradise – Gina in her power chair, me wheeling my chair, pushed by my beloved husband, Philip.
The three of us would meet and while they talked about me, a quiet interest was sparked – to once again envision myself involved.
They laid the foundation for me and Gina entwined the tools of her experience with the skills I’d need and the resources that the Disability Empowerment Center had. Eventually Gina used her counseling skills to help me realize that the goal I wanted to achieve was to return to who I was and what I did. She encouraged me to use my past resources and to think of them in new ways.
I came away with goals and a direction, which was to: continue work that was set aside with my disability and to find encouragement from people willing to support those with challenges.
Before my disability and the loss of my ability to speak audibly or freely stand or move, my pet images had been in national and international magazines. I have been showcased in New York’s Book and Paper Expo and my work has been made into 130 different products. I realized though that my work hadn’t changed, only people’s impression of my physical challenges had changed.
It is hard to fit into a world that doesn’t choose to see you.
With Gina’s encouragement and the help of the Disability Empowerment Center, I finished a big project that had been a long time coming, my prototype of my book “Talk to the Animals.” While I still need help with funding and publishing, my ultimate goal is to have the book printed and distributed as a leave behind in doctors’ offices, Alzheimer units and pediatric units. If you believe that you can help Lindy to achieve her goal of publishing and distributing her book as a leave behind in medical facilities, please contact the Disability Empowerment Center to connect with her.
My next goal is to find the best way to be most fully capable outside of my home. With DEC I’ve been able to go to the Christmas banquet, go to a picnic at Long’s Park and pet the horse, attend the Renaissance Fair and two baseball games. And yes…I was able to be among those who are welcoming and uncritical.
Nothing is off limits at DEC. With their help and support, I have learned how to choose the best equipment for my needs each day. I can ask folks with equipment like mine how to do something and there is no shame.
They have helped me to practice, observe other people and see how they manage the things that are still challenging me. They have helped me to look someone in the face who has been helpful and say thank you in sign language and with my mouth, out of respect for myself. They have helped me to be an advocate for others with disabilities.
DEC has helped me to realize that there are many people who may limit me but I don’t have to be one of them! That there are realistic ways to live a full life and to always make time for fun and appreciation.
So where am I now with my goals? Maybe I haven’t gotten my book published but I am a million times closer than I was before I rolled into DEC. I have accomplished the goal to have goals in my life.
I am back to work photographing pets for Malin’s Picture Perfect Pets. I am part of a fundraiser for a Santa event. I am back to teaching accelerated hands-on science for children at the Millersville campus. I am part of the Celebration for Life that raises money to send children with cancer to camp. I will be highlighted in a national magazine with my antique stained glass jewelry. And…I have just finished up a successful year of rescuing and raising 1,053 monarch butterflies and sending them on their way to El Rosario in Mexico.
So, as you can see, I’m gonna keep having goals and keep filling out those DEC forms that define the steps to complete your dreams!
What does empowerment mean to me? It’s not letting what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. It’s seeing the mountain and carrying one stone at a time away, until the ground is level enough to travel on.