The most influential person with a disability I have ever worked with was named Teri. She was a lady who lived in the first group home I worked at, in Emporia, Kansas, many years ago. Teri had Cerebral Palsy, and used a communication device that she controlled with a single red button that she hit with the side of her head. We would have full conversations, her using that button with a vengeance to get the words out. Teri also regularly added words to her device, and I remember being so in awe of her as she added each new letter, each taking at least half a dozen button taps, but when she had that new word added to her device, she opened up her world a little more, and was able to communicate that much more with her friends, family, and staff. I also played countless hours of matching game with Teri, flipping the tiles for both of us, but make no mistake, it was Teri matching the pictures, and she beat me every time.
One especially memorable time I had with Teri was on an out of town trip, to a specialist doctor appointment in Topeka, KS. We were getting in the van to head home, and somehow the entire sliding door came off the van, and I was left holding it in midair like the Hulk. Teri looked at me and feverishly hit her button, and soon her device was saying, in it’s mechanical voice, “HA HA HA HA”. After we both had a good laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing was, we got Teri, and the door, safely secured and we made it back to her home in Emporia just fine. I have lost touch with Teri through the years, but I think of her often as I work with our individuals at Open Options.