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APSU speaker to share story of lost limbs, newfound purpose

October 15, 2002

Percy Jones and his cohorts have an amusing designation for those outside their group: TABs, or "temporarily able-bodied" people—a gentle reference to the harsh truth that we're all likely to experience some type of disability in our lifetime.

In fact, we're far more likely to be disabled than to die, though in the beginning, the outcomes may not seem that different.

Percy Jones certainly had reason to despair. In the years spanning 1989 to 1996, the San Francisco cable car operator and public utilities investigator lost an eye and both legs to the complications of diabetes.

Yet from the outset Jones invested his energy not in cursing his disabilities but in overcoming them.

"While I was in the hospital after surgeons removed my left leg, I called for a social worker to see what resources were available," he says. "She said 'none,' and told me my income was too high to qualify."

Always a "persistent" person, Jones says the social worker had barely left the room when he was on the phone requesting her replacement. He simply had no affinity for a person who saw only impossibilities.

"Overcoming a disability is about self efficacy; it's about not taking every 'No' as a no," he says.

Jones's belief that each of us has the power to control our reactions to life-changing incidents doesn't mean that he lacks sympathy for those who have experienced a loss. On the contrary. Within three years of losing his sight and his mobility, he lost his job, his marriage and his beloved mother. So he's well-acquainted with the brokenness that often accompanies loss. But he learned that a shattered heart, like a shattered body, could become part of a mosaic of usefulness.

"I frequently work with groups that help people deal with loss," he says. "Loss is never easy, and I'm not just talking about the death of a loved one. We experience a sense of loss whenever anything of significance to us is taken away--a job, a home, even a car. The process we go through is the same."

But at the end of the grieving process can be self-revelation and unimagined stores of resolve. Jones excavated an old interest in counseling and carried it with him to John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California, where he's pursuing a doctorate in counseling psychology.

Despite new challenges posed by bypass surgery in 1994 and kidney failure in 1995, he continues that pursuit.

From where does such tenacity arise?

On Thursday, Oct. 24, Jones will share his story and talk about what it means to have a disability in a society that shuns imperfection. Three sessions are scheduled: 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., all at the University Center. Admission is free, and students, faculty and members of the public are welcome.

The event is sponsored by Student Life and Leadership, in conjunction with the Office of Disability Services in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“Percy Jones is a dynamic motivational speaker, and we're honored to have him on our campus," says Christina Wilson, graduate assistant in disability services. "His experiences and triumphs are sure to touch the hearts and minds of the disabled and able-bodied, alike.”