Musicians with Disabilities | Friendly Wheels | Issue 9

Posted on Friday May 6, 2011

Living in an Unconventional Body

Friendly Wheels, Issue 9
October 2008

By: Catherine BranchCatherine Branch

Having graduated a few months ago from Rice University in Houston, Texas as a flute performance major, my Amigo and I have recently arrived in Dublin, Ireland to begin work on an international fellowship project about disability advocacy and music.

For the next year I’ll be traveling as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, writing and reflecting on the disabled experience in different parts of the world. Through performing, writing and interacting with musicians, educators, advocates and fellow members of the disabled population, I hope to find meaningful ways to combine my passion for music and disability rights while acting as an advocate for change.


I couldn’t ask for a better “second set of legs” than my Amigo. How lucky I feel to have such a reliable vehicle with which to travel, and such a generous, supportive and knowledgeable mobility company to depend on!

I’ve often imagined what it would be like to experience living in a body without cerebral palsy. Though I’m aware that my body moves unconventionally, its motions and sensations are conventional to me, as they are all I’ve ever known. All of us are distinct from one another, and thus experience life in different ways. Catherine and Al T.

And how lucky we are to live amongst people who are all so very diverse and dynamic! Such color is added to the world by the uniqueness of its inhabitants – how intriguing it is to interact with the people around us, contemplating our differences and exploring the many different attitudes, sensations, perspectives and thoughts that can make up a life.

As frustrating as my body can be, it is always teaching me something new. In my perspective, the key to living life in an unconventional body is adaptation.

I can only laugh at the clumsy uncooperativeness my body exhibits when I try certain stretches, movements, or actions. But the occasionally disobliging nature of my physical self doesn’t feel insurmountable. On the contrary, when I run into obstacles, it feels as though I’m working out a solution to a puzzle. There’s never just one way to approach something; always there’s the possibility of another path, an alternative route. Often, all it takes is a little time, a little humor and an open mind.

Catherine uses an Amigo TravelMate. She graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas as a flute performance major. Currently in Dublin, Ireland, Catherine performs and writes as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow.

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