Power of One: Vanessa Knight and changing perceptions of the disabled
Published Sunday, December 30, 2012 6:17PM EST
MONTREAL—Vanessa Knight is a professional skier who goes rock climbing, plays the guitar and does it all with one arm. The 21-year-old mentors young amputees, showing them that anything is possible.
“I think that it’s really a good idea to make the world notice us and not just dismiss us and put us in the background as those disabled people,” said Knight, an ambassador for the War Amps. “We want to be members of society, functioning citizens because we can be.”
Most of the time her amputation is more noticeable to everyone else than it is to her, so in order to curb curiosity she spends time educating people.
“I was born without my hand,” she starts, speaking to a group of children.
The questions are always the same: Does it hurt? Will it grow back? Are you upset about your amputation? The answers are no, no and no.
“I can do everything that I want to do because I’ve never learned to do anything with two hands. I’ve always had one hand, so I’ve had to do things my own way and I’ve never had any problems with it,” Knight explained.
“I do tons of sports like kayaking and ski racing,” she says.
It's not just recreational skiing. Knight is part of the Canadian Paralympic ski team. It's all possible through a mechanical sports arm.
When Elliott Lakoff was born without his right arm, it was a complete surprise to his parents.
“We didn't know if he would be bullied, if he would do things normally, if he would grow up and be able to tie his shoes or ride a bike,” said Elliott’s mother, Elizabeth Lakoff.
But the fears quickly disappeared when the Lakoffs met Knight.
“She opened the door and there was, this young energetic vibrant woman standing there, and right away we were filled with hope and optimism for our son’s future, because she was so confident, well-adjusted and talented in so many ways,” said Elizabeth.
Vanessa now mentors Elliott and will provide support as he gets older. For Knight, confidence and willingness to talk about her amputation are what will make a difference.
“I want to promote this awareness for amputation as well as show everyone that its nothing to be scared of and we're just like everybody else,” said Knight. “We can do anything we want.”
Slowly she's changing perceptions and hopefully making it easier for future generations.