Sunday, November 14, 1999

Jobs hard to find for CP patient




BY DEBORAH KENDRICK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        None of us can ever know what another human being is capable of accomplishing. We can't tell by looking or listening or applying what we think is common sense.

        I was reminded of this truth the other day when I decided to follow up on a letter I got from Bob Segal, a Boston technical writer, who made a new friend while on business in Cincinnati.

        “Steve has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair,” Mr. Segal wrote. “I've even seen him shoot pool by bracing himself on his wheelchair and directing his badly twisted hands toward the cue ball! ...

        “He can only grunt a few words, so he must point to words on a large piece of laminated cardboard to communicate or use some speaking computer software at home. He is very bright and articulate. And he has a quick wit.”

"CP speech'
        I found out for myself when I gave Steve Cresap a call. I recognized immediately the out-of-control grunts that some of my friends with cerebral palsy affectionately dub “CP speech.” After a few difficult “yes” and “no” responses, he booted up his computer, and a clear synthesized voice said for him: “You may have to wait while I type.”

        No problem, I told him, and began the process of question and answer that, while maybe taking more time than other interviews, led to a treasured experience.

        At 35, Mr. Cresap lives in his own apartment and drives a “junky old golf cart” around town that he says “I have to keep fixing up.” Often, he knows what to do when the cart needs repairs, but needs another pair of hands to perform the labor for him.

        Even before his 1983 graduation from Condon School, Mr. Cresap was working as a disc jockey. In the last 20 years, he has provided music for numerous high school dances, parties, weddings and in some “stinkhole” bars. His music collection reflects his handle, “The Music Maniac DJ,” but jobs are hard to find.

        He has advertised in the yellow pages and elsewhere, he says, but people find out that “I can't speak and I'm in a wheelchair — and, well, that was that.”

Music in his soul
        Steve Cresap is fiercely independent and makes friends easily. One guy, he explains, gave him an old computer. Another gave him the Speakout software that enables him to type his words, albeit slowly, on the keyboard to communicate when he is at home.

        His beloved golf cart, too, was someone else's cast-off. He's resourceful and smart — living independently with his marvelous collection of tapes and CD's, surviving on Social Security and an occasional gig.

        Steve Cresap uses an old manual wheelchair, and he can't talk. But you don't need to walk or talk to be a great DJ. You just need to keep the music coming, and this guy has music in his soul.

        “The last thing I want is for people to think I'm a charity case!” he says.

        Not a chance. He signs his e-mails “Wildman Steve Cresap” and invites conversation (and people with job opportunities) to write him at steve.cresap@juno.com

        Cincinnati writer Deborah Kendrick is a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, Tempo, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202. E-mail: dkendrick@enquirer.com.

       



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