Daniel Vance - Disabilities

Deborah and Bobby Cook complement each other. She doesn’t see or walk well, and Bobby has trouble hearing and talking. They both read this column in the Walton Sun (Florida).

First, meet Bobby: “He has a hearing impediment in both ears,” said 57-year-old Deborah of her husband of 24 years. “It was caused by a bad fever when he was younger. You can get right back of him and yell and he can’t hearit. He also has a speech impediment. So I do the telephone talking and he drives because I can’t drive.”

From ages 2-5, Bobby saw a speech pathologist. Later, in Georgia, he attended a school for the deaf where he learned how to talk and read lips. “But he can get up in front of a group and deliver a speech,” said Deborah. “And he used to sing in a college choir. He would sit next to someone who really knew how to sing and then he copied them.”

Bobby usually avoids large crowds and has difficulty in places like church where he has trouble hearing the speakers. For many years, he worked for Coca-Cola as an engineering technician until retiring in 1998.

Now meet Deborah: She began using a walker about two years ago. Doctors say her constant hip pain and weak legs were likely caused by mild cerebral palsy at birth and a congenital hip problem. To get cardiovascular exercise, she regularly uses a treadmill.

She has other challenges. “For one, I have a visual impairment,” she said. “I have 20/400 vision in my right eye and have tried to drive, but really can’t do left-hand turns and merging into traffic that well. I lack depth perception.”

A Valdosta State College graduate, she worked 12 years at Georgia Baptist Medical Center, but hasn’t worked the last 10 years. She had wanted to major in “the sciences” in college but couldn’t because of her eyesight.

Not long ago, she realized she had nearly every symptom of Asperger’s syndrome, a mild, high-functioning form of autism. Though not officially diagnosed, she has symptoms such as an obsession with certain topics, social difficulties, lack of eye contact, and an inability to read body language in others.

She said, “But with faith in God and knowledge, you can overcome your disability and have enough energy within you to focus on someone else, too.”

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