Meet Patricia Fraser !
What was it like to grow with Spina Bifida or any other disability for you? When I was born, the doctors told my parents that I would not live past a year, but if I did I would be a “vegetable”, a common term used back then. I was born in 1970, in the Caribbean. My parents ignored the doctors and took me home. They fought for me to attend regular school, because only live-in institutions existed for people with disabilities. At home, I played with my sisters, neighborhood friends and cousins. I liked playing school (I was always the teacher), house, and doctor. I also had a bicycle with training wheels because of my balance, and turned single rope and double-dutch for my friends. I was included in all games and sports my friends played. And I got into trouble like my friends did too! 2) What was school like for you? I attended elementary school where my classroom was on the top floor, so every day I walked up three flights of stairs with my friends. My favorite memory from that time was standing at the bottom step, dropping my crutches and book bag, and holding on to the railings as I climbed the stairs. At the same time, my friends picked up my book bag and crutches, and we continued up the three flights, chatting away. Once at the top, I was handed my crutches and bag, and we continued on to the classroom. In the US, I was placed in special education classes based solely on my physical disability. This made me angry, until I started to make friends who looked like me, which I did not have in the Caribbean. Classes were mostly easy for me, because I liked school, loved to read, and my parents expected me to do well in school, so I did my best. I was called teacher’s pet a lot, but I learned to ignore the taunts because my parents would be disappointed if I failed on purpose. In high school, I finally fully mainstreamed because the special education classes were way too easy and I wanted to be more prepared academically to attend college. My parents fought for me to have adaptive gym and transportation to and from school, but all of my academics were in regular education classes. Math and science were always my weakest subjects, so I took the easiest required courses in order to pass into the next grade. English, Social Studies and Foreign Language were my favorite, and best, subjects. 3) What are your likes and dislikes? I have always loved reading. I’ll read any genre except horror, but my favorites are autobiographies of interesting people, science fiction, and books by/for people with disabilities, LGBT, or immigrants. I also love movies, music, camping, travelling, dancing, womens’ sports, and spending time with my wife, friends and family. I don’t have a lot of dislikes, except maybe rollercoasters and any ride that spins! 4) Do you have any siblings? I am the eldest of three girls. My sisters are two, and six years younger than I am. My youngest sister made me an aunt two times over, with two beautiful nephews. 5) Do you have any pets? As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about my cat Charlie, who we had to put down recently. His feline brother Rodney is slowly adjusting to being solo. I’ve had two other cats in the past, both of whom have passed, and my very first pet was a guinea pig named Lea. 6) What are your goals for the future? At this point in my life, I’ve done a lot that I am very proud of. I have lived on my own, graduated college, worked since I was 14 years old, gotten married, and travelled. Even though I do not have biological children, I am a very involved aunt, second mom, and godmother to several children (some who are adults with children of their own) in my life. For the future, I plan to continue doing more of the same, enjoying myself, and living life to the fullest extent possible. Professionally, I’m planning to go back to grad school for my MSW, so that my career options continue to grow. 7) What is your advice for those with a disability? Even if you think you can’t do something, you’ll never be sure until you try. Surround yourself with people who have acquired the things in life that you want. Find out your strengths and weaknesses, and use them to go after what you want. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, or to ask for help when you need it.