Brad Page was 17 years old when a football accident paralyzed him, just before he was expected to continue his football career at college.
“In the beginning, because I was still basically a kid, getting adjusted to my situation was hard, because, for 17 years, I was used to being independent,” Page said. “Now, I had to depend on someone to help me with my daily gear. Being 17 in high school and a jock, now my world is thrown upside down, and I have to start all over again.”
Today, at 39, Page works at Rivanna Station’s Child Development Center and owns a trucking company. Getting to this point wasn’t easy, as Page said he faced discrimination, over the years, from those who questioned if he was able to work.
“If a parent walks into the room and saw me in a wheelchair, and saw a person standing up, they would have more questions about whether I’m capable of caring for their child than a person standing up,” he said about what he was told.
However, none of the parents he interacts with feel that way and don’t see him as incapable of performing his job of teaching and taking care of their children. His job duties include helping lead class and teaching necessary skills for children heading into preschool.
People should take his actual abilities into account and not just his appearance, Page said. He wants people to ask him questions to help dispel any false beliefs about what he and others in his position can or cannot do.
“I want them to ask me if I can do the job, whether than just assume,” he said. “I’m going to be honest and say, ‘yes, I can.’”
Page will always admit if he can’t do something, he said.
Page would like more done to bring awareness to those with disabilities and a month dedicated to bringing awareness about disabilities isn’t enough, he said, “because, as the world changes, more people are going to have disabilities.
“It’s more common to see disabilities in the workplace because of the Americans with Disability Act. So I think it should be yearlong,” he said. “A month will give it the recognition, but, if a lot of people are not familiar with people who have a disability or know someone who has a disability. Then, it’s like we’ll think about it for 30 days, and then we’ll sweep it under the rug.”
More can also be done to make places more readily accessible, Page said. Just because there’s a button you can push to get into the building doesn’t mean the inside is accessible to those like him.
But overall, he wants people to recognize the individual personalities, backgrounds and abilities of those who are disabled.
“You might see someone with a particular disability, and you might think that all people with that disability are the same,” he said. But it’s not true. Page also rides four-wheelers and cuts wood.
“We should still be seen as individuals instead of grouped as a whole, thinking, ‘oh well, people in wheelchairs can’t cut grass or everyone in wheelchairs can’t do this,’” he said.
To those who are disabled, he offered this piece of advice:
“Have a strong faith that something is going to come through for you,” Page said. “I was given an opportunity. Someone took a chance on me.”
Now, he’s embraced by those he interacts with and loves the work he does. Striving for what you are passionate about is important, he said.