Kevin Geekie

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Six months ago, Kevin Geekie, 34, was on a flight to Minneapolis with the St. Louis Rugby Rams. He heard a flight attendant interact with one of his teammates who uses a wheelchair. The flight attendant said that the teammate’s “handlers” would have to sit somewhere else. Kevin took exception to this.

“‘Handlers’ is what you call someone who takes care of animals, not what you call someone who accompanies a person with a disability. It was pathetic. That flight attendant really needed some sensitivity training. It made me mad.” He shakes his head. “‘Handlers.'”

Raising a voice of awareness

Since Kevin became disabled eight years ago after surgery to remove a brain tumor, he has a heightened awareness of this kind of discrimination against people with disabilities. Now that he uses a wheelchair and can’t do some of things he used to in the same way, he said he finds that much of the world “is made for able-bodied people.”

Kevin started Social Inclusion, a Facebook page to help raise awareness of the importance of social inclusion for everyone. He worked on it while he sat in the room with his mother when she was in the hospital. Kevin experienced the doctors talking to other family members about his mother’s condition, but not him. It was just another example to Kevin of how being disabled often meant being excluded. And he had enough of it.

“I want to make other people aware that my contribution — that the contributions of people with disabilities — are just as important and necessary as those of people without disabilities.¬† We contribute to the economy. We contribute intellectually and socially. The problem is that so many in our society see people with disabilities as weak. But 19 percent of the population has a disability — that’s 1 in 5 people. If people with disabilities are all weak, that’s a lot of weak people. That perception’s just not true. Society needs to change.”

Finding a purpose

Kevin said his life is better now after his surgery, after his disability. He said that’s because he is able to raise awareness about discrimination and to promote social inclusion.

“For two years after I became disabled, I was trying to figure out where I belonged. Then I found Paraquad. Paraquad is the hub of everything related to having a disability. Everything you need to know to live successfully is at Paraquad.¬†Finding Paraquad changed everything.” he said.

Kevin, a participant at Paraquad, said his role is to raise awareness and to be a voice.

“There’s so much discrimination against people with disabilities. It’s still set up as a world where I’m a minority. I want to open people’s awareness to that discrimination.” Kevin does that through his Facebook page, his upcoming website and through daily interactions with people around him.

  • Raise awareness. “People need to recognize what they’re doing, how they’re treating people with disabilities. It needs to be brought to their attention.” Kevin believes that most people aren’t discriminating on purpose and aren’t doing it out of malice. “I don’t think they don’t care; I think they just don’t understand. It’s good to speak up. It’s good to let them know.”
  • Educate. Kevin is a firm believer in exposing people to common sense. He recently tried to park in the only accessible parking spot in a parking lot. But someone had set up chairs in the striped area to sit when they took a smoke break. That didn’t work for Kevin. He was unable to access the area, and he was unable to find another suitable place to park. Kevin later explained to people why removing the chairs was important to him. Common sense prevailed. “When I explain to someone why a certain thing makes it difficult for me and what would make it better for me, many times people will say, ‘I never thought of that, you’re right.’ They might change, they might not. At least they know.”
  • Show examples. Kevin posts many articles on his Facebook page of agencies, communities and countries that are helping to promote inclusiveness. And you will see many great stories of people who are living the life they want to live. “People I post about a lot are athletes and Paralympians. They are demonstrating an independent life right before our eyes. These people do everything, they just do it differently.”

The future

Kevin attends classes at St. Louis Community College’s Meramec campus in Kirkwood and will be attending the University of Missouri-St. Louis to complete a degree in social work. He continues to enjoy playing on the St. Louis Rugby Rams, working out in Paraquad’s accessible Health and Wellness Center and helping society be less discriminating and more inclusive. He’s not sure yet what path he will take with his social work degree. But one thing he knows: “I’m going to be a voice.”

Jen Haycraft is the Director of Attendant Services at Paraquad. She can be reached at jhaycraft@paraquad.org.

One comment on “Paraquad Participant Strives for ‘Social Inclusion’”

  1. 1
    Jen Wilton on August 24, 2015

    As Kevin’s neighbor, I can attest to both his struggles and his achievements. I appreciate his message and hope that others, including myself, can learn from what he has to say. Thanks for the important work you’re doing, Kevin.

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