Growing up with disabled brothers

Though many of my friends don't know this, I am a middle child who grew up with two disabled brothers. I've never spoken out about it because I never felt I needed to. I never thought of it as unusual or embarrasing. I just saw them as family members who I see all the time. And that's why it's so difficult to talk about it.

Neither of my brothers really "suffer" from their conditions. Both of my brothers have a condition called Albinism - a condition that affects the pigment of their skin. Contrary to popular belief, they do not have red eyes. Nor are they evil. They are just pale skinned people with white hair to you and I. But the condition also has other affects such as visual impairment - which did cause a few problems while they were growing up. They often had to have their text books enlarged with scanners or magnifiers. Their skin is also more sensitive, leaving them more at risk of rashes or malignant melanoma.

But my younger brother had it worse. He was born with fluid on the brain, rotated femurs and lax ligament, resulting in him having learning difficulties and difficulty getting around. He often has to use a white cane to get around so that he doesn't bump into people in the street. He sometimes uses a wheelchair but tries not to because he feels it restricts his freedom.

Despite all that, he doesn't let it get to him. He went to a special needs primary school where he was looked down on by teachers. They then put him in a mainstream secondry school where we thought he would end up the same road I went down. Instad, he managed fantastically well. He didn't do as well academically as he'd hoped but he hasn't let it stop him achieving what he wanted. In fact, he is more intelligent than a lot of people I know who haven't got learning difficulties.

He's always had a passion in motorsports and cars. He knows how cars work and can tell you so much about racing that it becomes like a lecture. However, he will never legally be able to drive a car due to his poor eye sight. So his goal in life is to get as up close and personal to cars as he possibly can. At the moment of writing this blog, he's studying a coarse at college which has him fixing cars and learning how to replace broken mechanisms within them.

So when people ask "What's it like having a disabled brother?" I tend to not have an answer. I don't contemplate his disabilities as part of the question because I'm use to seeing it. It's kind of like wearing glasses - you stop noticing it after a short period of time and it just becomes the norm. In fact, you can't see yourself without them - excuse the pun. Having siblings who are disabled is actually more of a gift than anything else.

I learn from my younger brother. He's taught me so much about compassion and how you should really live. He doesn't see his disabilities as a problem, just something of an inconvenience - like eating soup with an egg spoon. He makes me and my family proud with just how much he has accomplished. He's conquered so much in his life and continues to just make me smile. Whether it's through a stupidly hilarious witty comment or simply through his expression of how intelligent he can really be, he always seems to make me laugh.

The thing I'm trying to say isn't that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, or that disabled people are just like you and me. Those come without saying. The real message I'm trying to get across is that you should open your eyes more and learn from people. Everyone we meet is a book with a story to tell. If you open your eyes and open your mind to new perceptions and processes, you will gain something far more valuable than knowledge - a friend. Or in my case, a brother who is better at racing games than I am.

TheGuyInTheFunnyHat by James Stevenson
All content including graphics and media are created by James Stevenson