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UMD Student's Lecture on Life with Osteogenesis Imperfecta

Common perceptions were challenged on Feb. 1st at the Rafters, as UMD student Galynn White delivered a thought-provoking lecture on her life with the genetic defect “Osteogenesis Imperfecta.�

“I think there are a lot of misconceptions about people with disabilities� said Ms. White, 22, who is unable to walk and is physically much smaller than normal, both common effects of a rare defect. Ms. White described her condition to the audience, saying that Osteogenesis Imperfecta affects the bones, making them less dense and prone to breaking, but also allowing them to heal rapidly. This rapid healing causes many problems for those with the defect because bones that break will not heal properly, she said.

Despite these obvious disadvantages, Ms. White said that she tries not to focus on her disability. She feels that she had a normal childhood and said that she has lived a “very social life.� Upon meeting her, people are often nervous and don’t know what to say, said Ms. White, but as a whole they are kind and helpful, giving her a positive outlook on people in general, she said.

“People sometimes assume that I have a mental disability�, said White, who finds that disabled people are often lumped together into one category. Yet Osteogenesis Imperfecta has no effect on the brain. According to Ms. White, people’s initial assumptions about disabled people are quite often wrong. She then went on to describe her dreams and hobbies. “I want to adopt kids someday�, said Ms. White. She is a fidder, a writer (she wrote a murder mystery which recently debuted), and a gardener, and also studies Political Science and Secondary Education at UMD. She enjoys doing her work in coffee shops, and would like to open her own someday. Teaching is Ms. White’s second option should the coffee shop idea not materialize.

Ms. White then went on to describe what she sees as one of the main disadvantages of having a disability: romance. Society has traditionally viewed the dating of people with disabilities as socially unacceptable, she said. “Dating is my only limitation� said White, who feels she isn’t even acknowledged as a potential partner by the opposite sex. "The dating of disabled people is a taboo subject", she went on to say, and added “I just wish people were more open minded about it.� Ms. White will have a table on this subject, entitled "Disabilities and Sexuality" at the Kirby Center on Valentine’s Day.

Ms. White also discussed accessibility for disabled people on campus and around Duluth. UMD is a very handicap accessible campus, she said, which is one of the reasons she chose to study here. She uses Northern Access, a bus service for the disabled, to get around town. The Duluth Public Transit buses have lifts on them, said White, but they often malfunction, making them an inconvenience. Ms. White hopes to get a van in the future, but funding for the necessary modifications is currently out of reach.