4 Wheels Episode 4: Growing Up Disabled

In the latest episode of 4Wheels, Dom recalls growing up disabled in the 1990s, facing ableism and societal barriers, Dom found solace in programs that connects physically and folks labeled as "otherwise health impaired" in Michigan combined with atypical media representations that helped him embrace disability. Experiences with loss and his parent’s acceptance also helped shaped his perspective, motivating him to advocate for both himself and others.

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Amanda: Hi everyone, I’m Amanda Jurysta, producer of Four Wheels and A Mic. In this episode, Dominick talks about growing up disabled and he navigated and seen the world around him. Thank you for listening for wheels as a project and DisArt


Dominick: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the Four Wheels podcast, a.k.a. Four Wheels and A Mic Corner, a.k.a. Four Wheels and A Mic with your host Dom.

I grew up in the nineties, you know what I’m saying? Like I was a nineties baby, and I’m as old as the ADA, which is a really interesting fact, right? So the world around me started to adapt and become more accessible as I grew up. And so that was one interesting concept and watching my world become more accessible then I was able to thrive and live a little bit more than my previous counterparts that fought for that, right? My forefathers, my foremothers of the disabled community. So my perspective on being disabled gradually changed into a positive.

But as a youth, I thought I was cursed. Like I thought because my parents had me at a young age. This is what God put on me and this was put on me by, you know, any family members or stuff like that. It was more so religious community, like just absorbing things, right? For me as a kid, though, if it wasn’t for my family instilling in me, that I probably had to work three times as hard. Not just because I’m black, but also disabled and from Detroit. It was evident to me that the world was not built for me at a young age, right? But I always just wanted to be included.


One of the most beautiful things, though, about my experience as a kid was I didn’t feel so alone because I was a part of the P.O.H.I program, which is the Physically or Otherwise Health Impaired program in Michigan, where, you know, other kids with physical disabilities, Chronic Ill and invisible disabilities kind of come together. And so I had a friend base that became like my family because I knew them since, you know, pre-school, kindergarten, all the way up until high school ended.You know. And for me, though, this this was the place where I learned how to advocate for myself and advocate for others and see the difference in the world as we grew up because we weren’t all mainstreamed, you know, So we saw the unfairness of life, not just from the disability, but from how things are brought right. But on the other hand, we learned about other disabilities and like just looking at the human aspect of people and accepting that, you know.

But then I also faced some ableism from society a lot in this sense, because I wasn’t invited. certain places, I wasn’t able to go to take a kid to work day. You know, people would be afraid, cuz people never was exposed to disability at this point. And the ADA is brand new. And so the culture is still in this old way of thinking. And the world is slowly changing. For me, like playing outside with kids, you know, just, you know right away that you’re different. It took me a while until I got my power chair when I was in middle school to really be active, active. I did have neighborhood kids that helped me navigate the neighborhood and they pushed me and my manual. And I was a part of the gang to some extent, you know. But that noticing you’re different is just the biggest elephant in the room throughout your entire life. Even as an adult, I still feel but less so to where it hinders my spirit where I got to go get it right, I got to go do what I got to do to survive. Also not really seeing a lot of individual disabilities like myself as an adult, you know? So I didn’t know what was out there.

But the one thing I did have was comic books and, you know, some media, which was the super gip trope, which is a very dangerous trope, but it did benefit me in a way that accepting my disability was more acceptable. Like I grew up reading a lot of X-Men, watching cartoons and reading the comics. A show called The Mantis had me really looking like, Yeah, I could do it, but these are all super gip tropes. These are people that are using machines or have superpowers that overshadow their disability in some aspect, right? So, but for me, these were the first “Oh Wow!” Maybe I could do that one day moment, right?

Also, growing up disabled for me at least, I faced a lot of losing a lot of friends early to disability, learning about, you know, people having a short life spans because of their conditions and disabilities and chronic illnesses. Just kind of having this strange perspective that, how precious friendships and lives are, especially in the disabled community. We all go through it pretty regularly and if those who haven’t, you are truly blessed in some favor, to not have to go through that as much. I know things differ from people to people, but those things had a very profound effect on me and how I operate and move throughout the world.
Just knowing that friendships are pretty, you know, depending on people and looking at friendships differently. Because I really can never really have a surface level type of friendship with people as a kid, and as a teenager. So, you know, lose some friends because you can’t play ball like them, you can’t go to recess like them. But you find out who your true friends are because they stick by you and they don’t care. And this can be at any young age or early, you know, older age, young age in between. These things stick out in my mind You know.


Having my parents have to accept the grieving period of me being disabled. They did it in a shorter period of time than other people that I know, probably whose parents did it or are still going through it. You know, even as an adult. That grieving period, though, comes looking back, you know, as an adult, you look at it like, oh, yeah, you get the grieving period, now, but also the being told that, you know, I have to make a way for myself and make a lane for myself to to be my own trailblazer in some way is kind of one thing that I remember from my childhood that always stuck for me is even up until my adulthood and to this day is one of the biggest driving forces that keeps me doing the work that I’m doing, that keeps me wanting to help the younger generation. Yeah, I think that’s where I can touch on really. And get at now. I would love to hear the audience’s stories and different things, and I want this to be a place that you can feel validated and share your experience is because it’s my podcast, but it’s our community, right? And so I would love to hear from everybody and I can’t wait till next time. Peace!

Amanda: Thanks for listening to 4 Wheels and a Mic. This week’s music is Into The Night by prazkhanal


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