Most people may find dancing, participating during P.E. or even climbing stairs easy tasks, but that is not the case for one of the school’s students. For junior Ya Chin (Ginger) Hsu, even walking is a challenge.
Ginger does not stroll around the campus as most students do, but instead must use a battery-powered wheelchair as means of traveling from class to class
Since birth, the bones in Ginger’s legs have been bent so that she cannot walk stably. She has a case of spina Bifida, a birth defect involving incomplete development in the spinal cord and its protective coverings. The condition is caused by the failure of the fetus’s spine to close properly during the first month of pregnancy and occurs in one or two out of every 1,000 births.
Until this year, Ginger has had to journey to classes by foot, a slow and often tiring process. Her legs were encased in braces, which she took only to shower and sleep.
Over the summer, the bones in Ginger’s legs surgically adjusted so that her feet could face forward, and she has now grown accustomed to riding in a wheelchair.
Her condition comes with consequences. Ginger cannot do any physically exhausting activities. Rather than playing sports, she spends her spare time reading and watching dramas on Youtube.
The school gives Ginger the support she needs through its 504 program. According to Counselor Judy Prothro, the 504 program is practiced nationwide, prohibiting discrimination against students with disabilities.
“The program is in place so the people who have disabilities have accommodations, so the education is fair,” Prothro said.
These accommodations include arranging classes so that they are close together, excused tardies and early dismissal from class to avoid the massive crowds of students in the hallways.
However, the classroom setting itself isn’t a problem. Her condition does not affect her schoolwork, and teachers try to make her academic experience a comfortable one.
‘When there’s group work, usually the group will meet where she is so she doesn’t have to get up and move around,” Ginger’s English teacher Ryan Ikeda said.
Though she cannot walk without a walker yet, she is currently going to physical therapy to build up the muscles she needs to be able to walk again.
Until then, Ginger says her condition is “okay,” and most people Ginger has encountered treat her respectfully.
“They will be careful with me,” Ginger said. “Some people ask me what happened. Their response is ‘live strong!’”
Ginger’s friends junior Jeffrey Huang describes her as “a good friend, open-minded and helpful.”
According to Ginger, the school has done a lot in helping her and insists that her life is almost the same as her fellow students’, except with a wheelchair.
“Don’t look at me differently, but [it’s okay to] ask me some questions,” Ginger said. “Treat me like you treat normal people.”