Giving a Hand

For my blog today, I have decided to focus on one of the assets that my disability has given to me. I talk a lot about being disability positive, and in turn about some of the advantages that my disability has afforded me in my life and career. For the next several blogs, I want to talk about some of the different advantages that living with cerebral palsy has granted me. The first asset, or rather assets, is my hands.

My hands work differently than most peoples’. I have very little use, if any, in my right hand (depends what kind of mood it is in) and only limited use of my left. To define limited, I have the use of thumb and forefinger and reasonable gripping strength. That is it in the hand department. I struggled for a long time with things like holding utensils, can only lift fairly light objects and am a lifelong two finger typist. On the surface, this may sound like a huge disadvantage in my education and subsequent career. The limited usage in my hands has certainly given rise to its fair share of frustrating moments. However, I actually believe that it has made me a more successful student, employee and entrepreneur.

Firstly, I have a very good memory because I am rarely in a position to write something down quickly. Much like a visually impaired person can develop audio acuity, my brain trained itself in elementary school to remember a lot of information. This has also meant that I am particularly good at mental math. Because I cannot scribble down equations, I learned to do them really fast in my head. So, whether it is my ability to quickly calculate a tip on a business lunch or my mental capacity for retrieving a fact out of the memory banks, my inability to write things down has leveraged itself into a number of practical business advantages.

Secondly, my typing speed has meant that I am constantly looking to be concise, quick and to the point. That is not to say that I cannot occasionally be long-winded, but I have definitely had to learn to self-edit so that I do not get bogged down in work tasks. I may not be the fastest typist, but the strategies that come from needing to find verbal shortcuts have prepared me well for the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship. I cannot afford, sometimes, to be as flowery in my language as my artistic side would like and therefore have had to be nice and economical with my words.

Lastly, my hands are often icebreakers. That may sound like a bit of strange sentence, but it is true. The help that I require due to limited hand function frequently leads to the forging of great social connections. Several of my business cards have been given out to people who are assisting me thanks to my hands not doing the things that hands should do. It is a great way to meet people and a great way to begin or strengthen a relationship. These moments can be awkward, but I choose not to see them that way. They are opportunities for positive interaction. In the business world where positive interaction is the name of the game, my differently working hands are among my best assets.

So there it is in a nutshell, a pair of hands that some may see as a progress inhibitor I see as a progress accelerator. And that, really, is what my business is all about.