Avoiding Artificial Constraints

Published: Oct 22, 2018

When I was in college I took a class on problem solving. One day, the teacher drew nine dots in a grid on a sheet of paper and asked us “how can I connect these dots with a single, straight line?” After everyone had given up on finding the answer, the teacher proceeded to roll the paper into a spiral and draw a single line down the spiral to connect all the dots.

The teacher wasn’t trying to show us how clever they were or to give us something to do at parties. Instead, they were trying to teach us about avoiding artificial constraints when faced with a problem.

When dealing with the day‐to‐day challenges of living with a disability, it’s easy to be discouraged by limitations or obstacles that don’t really exist. We often think that, because we can’t accomplish a task the same way other people can, we can’t accomplish the task.

The laundry hamper is too heavy or big to move into the laundry room, so we can’t do the laundry by ourselves.

It’s too dangerous for us to move a pot of water boiling water from the stove to the sink in our wheelchair, so we can’t make pasta at home.

We can’t easily use the gym equipment anymore so we aren’t able to exercise.

The truth is, the laundry hamper doesn’t need to make it into the laundry room—the laundry needs to make it into the washer. The pot doesn’t need to be drained into the sink—the pasta needs to be removed from the water. Exercising is about moving your body—not using specific equipment.

When faced with barriers to our health or independence, it’s important to evaluate each situation clearly and not dismiss a possible solution simply because it’s unconventional.