Living With A Disability | Mike Berkson and Tim Wambach of Handicap THIS!
Note: This is an old interview and as of now Tim and Mike no longer do live performances.
UM: What is your name?
Mike Berkson. Tim Wambach
UM: How old are you?
Mike: 25 Tim: 40
UM: Where are you from? (State only)
Mike&Tim: We both are from Illinois.
UM: What type of disability do you have?
Mike: I have cerebral palsy. My arms don’t work, my legs don’t work, my torso doesn’t work, pretty much all my muscles are compromised, but I can talk and I can talk and I do both as much as possible.
Tim: I was Mike’s one-on-one aide in school. I started working with Mike in 2001 and we have been a big part of each other’s lives ever since.
UM: When were you diagnosed/told? How did you handle knowing?
Mike: I was a baby when the doctors told my parents not to expect much. They said I wouldn’t be able to talk or do much of anything. Not only was I talking up a storm by the age of 3, but I have taken honors classes in high school, took college courses and now I have a career speaking and performing in front of large audiences!
UM: Was depression a problem? If so, how’d you overcome it?
Mike: Yes. I don’t know if I have ever had “overcome” it. I just deal with it in different ways.
UM: What limitations does your disability place on you?
Mike: Cerebral Palsy limits my body, but it does not limit my mind. Physically, I can’t do much and I need help to perform the simplest tasks.
UM: How did your peers and family handle your disability?
Mike: My family rallies around each other to help me with my daily activities. I don’t think my peers are quite aware of what an average day is for me.
UM: How has your disability affected daily activities?
Mike: I need help to do everything. But I am lucky that I have 2 parents that help me in every way possible, I have an identical twin brother who is able-bodied who helps me as well. Also, Tim has been a great help for me and my family since 2001.
UM: Are you employed? If so, how does your disability affect your job? Are there any accommodations?
Mike: I make up one half of “Handicap This!” – we travel the country and educate, empower, and entertain with our show and speeches. Because of the nature of my “job” we travel a lot and travel definitely takes a toll on me. For example, last Fall we were booked in Kansas City, MO for a few days and our last presentation was at 6 pm on a Saturday night. We also had a show booked in Lake Geneva, WI on Sunday afternoon. So immediately after our speech, we had to drive through the night to get to Lake Geneva on time for our afternoon show. It was TOUGH!
UM: Tell me about the biggest obstacle you face having a disability?
Mike: The fact that I need help to do your basic everyday duties.
UM: Do you drive? Were you worried that you wouldn’t be able to, or do you want to learn?
UM: What is something that you hope gets better for the disabled community?
Mike: Flying! I would love for there to be a way that I could stay in my chair during a flight!
UM: A quote or saying that keeps you motivated. Why?
Mike: We have a motto in our show – “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome!” That pretty much sums it up for me!