Guest column by Cheryl Schiltz, Author of Silencing the Noise of Disability
My childhood was filled with dreams come true. I walked barefoot with soft green grass under my feet. I watched golden leaves float from their branches dropping a spicey fragrance to the ground. I walked through tall grass with tips of feathery whisps tickling my arms. I would lay down and look to the sky filled with cotton clouds discovering animals, flowers, a mighty mountain range, a face, all floating above me. I walked into lakes feeling its cool water turning off the heat of the day. I was filled with joy as tall waves nearly pushed me over or when tiny ripples swirled around me like the twirl of a ballerina. Each of these wonderful experiences shaped who I am. Each was a dream come true and they all wait for my visit again.
When I was a child, my parents took me to Lake Superior. I’ll never forget the enchantment I felt. I became a part of it, a feather of delight rising up and down upon her waves. It was here I fell in love with Lake Superior.
I dreamed of feeling the delight of that day again, to feel the wonder I felt as a child.
Then, in 1997, I was introduced to disability. My dream ended.
Because of a serious infection, I was given a high-powered antibiotic, gentamicin, which ignited a side effect damaging the place in my inner ear that controls the ability for my brain to sense my surroundings. I lost my ability to know where I was in space, my sense of balance disappeared. I was unable to walk without assistance and my vision, once stable and clear, shifted to seeing only a blur of what was in front of me.
I held a dream of visiting Meyer’s beach, but it was shattered by my loss and how terrifying it would be. I mourned I’d never reach its exhilarating excitement because my access was beyond a safe ability.
I wanted to float in a kayak under clouds of cotton I saw as a child, I wanted to discover the mystery of the sea caves. I wondered what shapes I might see in them. I wanted to hear natures music while floating quietly inside.
Over the years I’ve gotten better yet challenges remain, as do my fears. I have yet to visit Meyer’s beach.
Then I learned about The Friends of the Apostle Island’s Access for All initiative, my dream returned, and it’s on the edge of coming true.
I have an opportunity to open a gift of strolling down a ramp, not only to reach my dream safely, but to take in the marvelous sights along the way.
Access for All will make countless dreams come true. By building a ramp to reach Meyer’s beach, people with disabilities will feel freedom. Being able to, for the first time, experience something that wasn’t accessible to you before, is a feeling difficult to express. In many ways it’s as if a door, having been locked forever, is opened and for the first time one can step into experiencing things that have been just a dream.
The ramp will be used by everyone, those with a disability and those without. The beauty of this is that being together sharing this experience will ignite the power of inclusion.
Providing opportunities for people with disabilities to visit Meyer’s beach will be priceless. To experience floating upon the waters of Lake Superior, to witness the magical sea caves, the absolute joy of it all, will change lives. Experiencing this will undoubtably lift spirits, it will remove limitations, and it will make dreams come true.
The outdoors heals. It heals the body, the mind, and with great wonder, the spirit. Within the outdoors comes a splendid strength, one that will follow a person with a disability as they travel to their next adventure.
Access for All is a gift to people with disabilities. Each time someone unties the bow, their dream will come true.
Consider a donation to Friends of the Apostle Islands Access for All and become a part of making this significant initiative come true. You will be giving yourself a gift as well because the ramp will be a gift for everyone.
Author of Silencing the Noise of Disability
Access for All advocate