Disability doesn’t mean inability

Courtney McNichols
Courtney McNichols

Three days before the end of the second five-week term of the summer 2013 semester, a student confined to a wheelchair rolled up to the R.C. Cook Union entrance closest to the stadium. She stopped midway when she received a text message. An elderly couple sitting under the stadium showed concern and asked her if she needed any help. The student, who is nonverbal, replied by shaking her head and flashing the same big smile she had worn for most of her life. A man also sitting under the stadium got up, walked to entrance, and jokingly answered the couples’ question with, “Yeah, mentally.”

My name is Courtney McNichols and I am a senior interdisciplinary studies major at USM. I was completely shocked when the incident described above happened to me. I thought I lived in a society that had overcome discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

I was nine years old when my younger sister and I were struck by an oncoming vehicle in our hometown, Union, Miss.

Sadly, my sister died upon impact while I was rushed immediately to the ER and subsequently laid in a coma for nearly six months.

When I came out of my coma, I was faced with how much more challenging my life would be without the use of my voice and the inability to walk.

I never let any limitations stop me, and I eventually graduated high school in 2007 and attended Meridian Community College before transferring to Southern Miss in fall 2011.

I’ve had many experiences living as a person with a disability, some good and some bad.

Through these experiences, I have noticed several stigmas that come along with being disabled.

I have been given the space to address some of these stigmas and break down the walls that our society has constructed between the disabled and those who are not disabled.

In the coming weeks, look for my column ‘Coco’s Corner’ as I dive into issues that physically disabled students like me face everyday.