VOICES: Jacob Blakes new normal will include disability discrimination

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: this guest column by Shari Cooper appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Friday, Sept. 18.

I could spend my time talking about how angry I am that this whole racial injustice thing is getting out of hand and how action needs to take place now. Instead I will share my perspective on Jacob Blake’s new normal.

Blake is the 27-year-old black man from Kenosha, Wis. shot by a white police officer seven times. He is now paralyzed from the waist down.

Before August 23 Jacob was a vibrant, young, able-bodied man who was able to do everything physically for himself. I’m guessing here, but maybe he loved sports and hanging with the fellas. Maybe Jacob was a hard worker who loved his family and had much swag and a way with people.

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

Maybe Jacob was one of the neighborhood boys who played football in the street, rode a skateboard, and had to run home before the streetlights came on. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing, but all the kids where I grew up had to get home before the streetlights came on.

Jacob who once could do everything for himself is now a person with a disability that’s going to rely on others to assist him.

By no means does having a disability mean your life won’t be normal and fulfilling, but it’ll be different. Jacob’s life now will consist of, plenty of physical, occupational, and probably even mental health therapy.

He must learn a new way to get in and out of the bed by himself, dress, how to sit up, ride and maneuver a wheelchair.

Jacob is also going to have to learn how to restroom himself and practice controlling his bladder, so he won’t have any accidents. I’m hoping he can even learn to stand and walk again because with faith, I believe one can do all things.

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I’m also thinking by Jacob being a handsome young man, he’s still going to want to be intimate with a partner and he should, but he’ll have to learn how to manage that too.

Intimacy is a big part of life for all including people with disabilities. As Jacob said in his first interview, he’s in constant pain which many people disabilities are and he’ll have to learn how to live with that as well.

Most of all in his new normal, Jacob will have to learn how to advocate for himself to get his needs and wants met. He’ll have to learn when people are trying to help him or takeover.

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Hopefully, he can do all these things without letting depression of what was and what’s now set in.

As the world turns in this in this crazy unfair time where we continue to fight for justice and try to keep social distance while wearing a mask and sanitizing our hands, let’s not forget to advocate for Jacob and others living with disabilities.

He’s in a whole different battle that not only includes racial injustice but disability discrimination too.

If there’s isn’t something done about this injustice issue soon, many able-bodied black men will become disable.

Hopefully, changes for better days are on the way to make a better tomorrow for the young ones growing up to be able to flourish without worry.


Shari Cooper is the public relations assistant for Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley. She advocates for those living with disabilities and is a former Ms. Wheelchair Ohio.