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My Wife: An Advoacte for People with Disabilities and an Inspiration for All

My wife has severe cerebral palsy. She can’t walk, feed herself, bathe herself, dress herself and has great difficulty speaking. But her accomplishments out weigh those of many able bodied people. Her passion for justice and for helping people with disabilities equals her expectations of those very people to avail themselves of every opportunity to advance their own lives. This is part of her remarkable story.

You might fairly ask, “Who are those people in the picture and what are they doing?”  I’ll tell you.  It is a picture of Renee Riddle (now Renee Wood) when she was a bit younger.  The burly guys left and right of her are Princeton, NJ’s finest.  You will note they have their hands on her.  Always helpful, they are picking her up off the ground and lifting her into her wheelchair.  Did she fall out of her chair?  No.  She threw herself out of her chair, falling to the pavement in the most inconvenient place she could find in the campus of Princeton University.

I can’t recall the story exactly but I think Princeton had recently hired a certain professor named Peter Singer.  He is a proponent of a unique form of preference utilitarian philosophy that espouses a form of euthanasia for disabled babies under 28 days old . . . . with their parent’s permission, of course.  Renee, not a proponent of any form of euthanasia, was at Princeton in 1999 to protest Princeton’s hiring the Australian, Singer.  She was with a group called “Not Dead Yet”.  You might have heard of it.   The happy ending is that the underpowered police told her to stay right there until somebody came to pick her up.   “Sure ‘nuf, officer.”  She will never know if anyone ever came to pick her up because she wheeled on out of there after the boys in blue left.  I might add that she did not always get away when her shenanigans attracted the attention of the police.  She has spent over 250 days in several jails across the U.S.A.

Renee is my wife.  We have been married for over ten years.  What is unique about her is that in spite of a severe disability (cerebral palsy) she has many accomplishments to her credit.  Most recently she was first elected, then, appointed by the Governor of the state of Ohio, to serve as Chair of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council.  Even though her fellow Council members elected her Chair, the governor could have, and sometimes does, appoint another member of Council or his or her brother-in-law as Chair of Council.

Now that is not bad for someone who cannot walk, barely talk, cannot feed herself, bathe herself, dress herself or go to the bathroom by herself.  Did I mention?  She drools.

So, you just can’t let such an interesting story go to waste.  At first sight of her she is one of those persons who inspires the remark, “I would never want to live like that.” Well, of course, who would?  But, if you have to, because that’s the way you were born, do you roll over and take what little tidbits society, in its beneficence, throws at you?  Or do you go on with life, recognizing that it is not going to be easy, but, you will try to find a way to do all that you want to do? 

My wife is not a convenient woman to anyone, especially for myself.  She asks as much of everyone else as she asks of herself.  And she does not always espouse the views you would expect her too, given her situation in life.  But you can always bet that she will have a well thought out explanation for her views, even though you still might not agree with them.

I am going to write a few articles about Renee.  She is a remarkable woman.  I hope, in the end, you will agree that Renee has paid the dues required to deserve the admiration, respect and, in my case at least, the love of those who get to know her.  And, I think you will enjoy reading about one of the most interesting persons I have the privilege of knowing.

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  1. Thankyou, for sharing this remarkable post, about TWO remarkable people, your wife and her husband. I\’ve worked with mentally and physically disabled children, most of my adult life. It has been a pleasure, getting to know each one\’s unique personality. Many of them have won my heart, at one point in time. Participating in Special Olympics is a delightfully fun experience, with a picnic afterwards we enjoy as a \’big family\’. It\’s so rewarding, to view the excitement and pride these kids show in their efforts to compete. There are absolutely no losers! We pour out love on every one of them and get tons of love back, in return. I love it!!!

  2. You are lucky to have a wife like her. And your wife is proving that people are remembered by their deeds, not their persona. Awesome share.

  3. You are lucky to have a wife like her. And your wife is proving that people are remembered by their deeds, not their persona. Awesome share

  4. Good work thank you for sharing.

  5. Nice article and thanks for share

  6. Amos, your story is inspirational and heartfelt. Your wife’s strength is admirable and in today’s world…one doesn’t find that very often.
    Both of you are very lucky to find the strength in each other.

    This is a beautiful tribute to your wife and your love for each other.
    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story.

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