Kaini Zhang is a Chinese-born, Singaporean citizen who married in 1998 and gave birth to her first daughter in 2000, followed by the second in 2003. “We were actually very happy. Singapore was the perfect country for us. We made a very happy family here,” she shared.
Facing a spinal cord injury
Her life took an abrupt turn when their car flipped on the way to the market on a Sunday morning and Kaini broke her neck. “A passerby came and helped us drag me out from the car…I was very sure I was going to be paralyzed. I felt a sharp pain on my neck and didn’t feel anything.”
Kaini was always a confident person, but she was tested in the aftermath of her accident. Regaining confidence is a journey that’s important to your health and well-being.
“For a year or two, I wasn’t that confident. When I saw other wheelchair users go outside, I saw other people watching me and thought maybe they were disgusted about me behind my back. I was feeling a bit ashamed, but now I tell myself I need to overcome this kind of feeling. I need to tell myself that when they look at me, it’s not because I’m strange, it’s because I’m beautiful.”
A new outlook on disability
Now she always smiles at anyone who stares at her. “I also advise those people who have disabilities, don’t be afraid when people look at you. If you give a frown or nasty face, they will really feel like you are strange. If you smile at them, they will smile back and want to be your friend and want to know you."
"You must love yourself and give your best to everyone. Other people will recognize when you take care of yourself and have confidence. I just don’t think I should give up just because I’m in a wheelchair. I need to look the best, be the best, all the time, every single moment.”
Also as the mother of two girls, she’s helped her daughters in their reactions to their family getting stared at. “It makes them feel uncomfortable, so I would just tell them people look at us, but it’s not that they don’t like us,” she shares. She teaches her daughters to smile and accept it in a positive way. “When celebrities walk down the street, people don’t look because they don’t like them,” she shares.
“The real disabilities are not physical, but in the heart,” she believes. “There are people who are able-bodied who go on to commit crimes or who don’t care about their families or children.” Those are the real disabilities to Kaini, “In that way, I am not disabled. I’m very able,” she adds with a smile.
She hopes to see society to continue to improve to open up to people with disabilities. “Just treat people with disabilities like nice, normal people. Don’t put any title on them and give more understanding, care and concern.” Adapting to life with a disability may not always be easy, but with the right attitude and support, you can thrive.
Don’t miss Kaini’s tips on communicating with kids as a parent in a wheelchair.