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I have a disability called spina bifida, which has prevented me from being able to walk; so I use a wheelchair to get me around. Being in a wheelchair isn't easy because I have a lot of things to deal with. It is not easy for me to go to a lot of places because they aren't handicapped-accessible, even though they may say they are. Some examples of places like that are restrooms in buildings such as hotels and restaurants; also state park hiking trails, showers, and restrooms. Having this disability has given me lots more than this to deal with. I have to deal with people as well. Some of them are more rude and inconsiderate to me than they would be to an able-bodied person, just because I'm handicapped. People think that just because I can't use my legs I can't use the rest of my body and they think I can't do as much as I can. I can do a lot -- just not as well as others. That is one way I differ from others.

I can't do any sports that require using legs since I can't walk. That does not mean I can't enjoy sports. Aside from being disabled and in a wheelchair, I have a few of the same problems other teens my age have. Problems such as death and peer pressure. Other problems I don't have but I know are problems are violence, AIDS, drugs and alcohol, and gangs.

Hopefully I won't have any of these problems in the future. Why death is a problem to me is because my dad died when I was 14 years old. Peer pressure comes along when I am with friends. I tend to pick on my little brother more often when my friends are around. I don't really mind my disability anymore. I have gotten used to it over the years. But I think people should get to know me better. Then they would be nicer because they would realize I'm really not a bad person.

While it has not been easy to deal with my disability, luckily I have some really terrific friends. I don't know what I would do without them. They have been a big help. I think it helps that I have a positive attitude about myself, and also it helps that I am really so independent.

This essay is reprinted from the book From Darkness to Light: Teens Write About How They Triumphed Over Trouble with permission of the publisher, Fairview Press.