Handicapped speaker inspires, awes students

By on December 6, 2006

Matt Glowacki describes himself as possesing the ability to have the same quality of life as the average American. However, after hearing him talk last Tuesday in Alumni Hall, it’s fair to say Glowacki’s quality of life exceeds the average.

Born without legs in 1973 in Janesville, Wis., Glowacki struggled through his preteen and teen years trying to find himself. After several years of battling with his parents throughout his middle and high school years, Glowacki was finally able to get what he has always wanted most in his life: people to like him for who he is.

“You can’t judge a person’s quality of life just by looking at them. . No one has enough experience to make judgments so quickly,” he said.

His refusal to wear wooden prosthetic legs allows him to put people to the challenge. When he was younger, he put all his efforts into making the legs not work for him, because they were not him.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater and is now a successful businessman, selling wheelchairs to fit the personal needs of clients. He drives his own car, has a girlfriend, does his own shopping, works out daily and can probably do more push-ups than the typical weightlifter. He also won an Olympic medal.

His personality, full of enthusiasm and love for life, shined throughout the entire time he spent with Quinnipiac faculty, students, and several members of the general public.

In the first few minutes of his hour and half long discussion sponsored by Multicultural Affairs, Glowacki made his message clear.

“This program isn’t about me; this program is about you,” Glowacki said.

Through several anecdotes, Glowacki illustrated his drive to encourage individual to accept others’ differences, not to criticize them.

“Matt’s presentation was the most real experience I have learned about individuals who have a disability,” said Katie Forrester, a senior occupational therapy major.

In a society where we set up those who have “disabilities” for failure by over-accommodating them, Glowacki said it is no wonder the able-bodied population has become so ignorant of the potential of people with disabilities.

“Ignorance is bliss,” he said.

For anyone to succeed or even possess the desire to succeed, Glowacki says we have to set expectations for each other.

“It is the people that see potential in you that better your life,” Glowacki said.

Encouraging the audience to allow others to see potential in them and allowing themselves to see potential in others, he told a story about how someone who he despised had encouraged him to to try out for the United States Sit-Volleyball team. Glowacki went on to compete internationally and, in 2000, he helped the American team secure a position in the Paralympics in Sydney, Australia. He achieved his goal.

“It is very powerful to hear him not consider himself disabled and live the way he has chosen to live his life,” said Anna Silverman, a graduate occupational therapy student.

Although many people found his talk inspiring, Glowacki prefers to call himself more of a diversity speaker than anything else. He seeks to help others find potential in our differences.

Just before getting on to the floor to demonstrate to the audience how he plays volleyball, Glowacki concluded his speech by putting it in perspective.

“You never know when you are going to acquire your next disability, but you still have to be a productive member of society,” Glowacki said.


About Erin Elfeldt