Without hands and legs Jean Marc keeps on fighting

Date: January 1, 1970
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The story is about a 22 year old boy born without hands and legs but has never felt that he was a disabled person. His parents have never put him in a special school. He walked on his knees until he had an operation in a French Hospital. He now walks with artificial legs and drives his motorcycle. He met his fiancée at an NGO and will soon be married.

This article may be used to:
1. Show how different stereotypes can be broken, and that a disabled person can live a life as normal as any able-bodied person can.
2.  Illustrate a balanced article that does not treat the disabled person as weak, piteous, or eternally suffering

Trainers Notes

The story is told from the perspective of a disabled man and his able-bodied financée. It gives both male and female equal voices and shows the human face of disability. This human story can help other disabled people to come forward and talk and also be encouraged to lead a normal life. The headline is creative in the use of language, e.g. saying that Jean Marc has never dropped his arms while he has no arms. The language is gender friendly and there are lots of stereotypes that are broken in this story.
The article shows readers that:
1)      A disabled person can have a normal life just as any other child can, i.e. s/he can go to school, learn, walk, join clubs, etc.
2)      Even if there are specialised schools disabled people can choose to go a regular school, depending on the situation, and be accepted.
3)      A disabled person is not condemned to fall in love with or get married to another disabled person, but can live a happy life with an able-bodied person.
4)      People with disabilities are just as worthy of love and affection as able-bodied people.
5)      A man can be a homemaker and a woman can be the sole breadwinner.
Discussion Questions:
1. What are the strengths of this article? What lessons for fair, unprejudiced and balanced reporting can journalists take from this article?
2. How well are the rights of disabled people upheld in your country? What challenges do they face in a world that caters mainly to the able-bodied?
3. Do you think Jean Marc would be seen differently if he was an able-bodied man and still a homemaker? In what way?
Training Exercises:
1. Have a discussion around the provision of services for people with special needs, especially in terms of health care, education, transportation and employment. Break the class into groups and have each group write up a list of challenges and recommendations for each sector.
2. Invite a representative from a human rights group that focuses on disability to speak to and be interviewed by the class. Have each person write a letter to the editor and send these out to different newspapers in your region.
3. Have the class brainstorm a list of stereotypically male and female roles, activities and professions. Ask people to imagine a man in each female role and a woman in each male role. Which seem normal and which seem strange, unusual or uncommon. Discuss why some roles appear fluid and others do not. Ask if the same would have been true 20 years ago. Are our perceptions of gender roles dependent on socialisation, geography, age, culture, demographic?
The Story

From the time he was born in July 1984, Jean Marc has led a normal life. Nobody pointed out to him that he was different from the others, even at primary school. He walked on his knees and did his best without hands. While doing his primary education his parents managed to send him to France through the generosity of the public. He stayed over one year in France so he could learn how to walk with artificial limbs. When he returned to Mauritius he took part in the examinations of the end of primary school and started his secondary education. He could even take the bus as he was walking with his artificial legs. After his secondary education he went to an NGO, Terre de Paix, and stayed there for four years, coming back home to his family only on weekends. At this organisation he learnt to cook, wash, clean and helped his friends. He was also in the Scouts and there learnt good discipline and responsibility.
At Terre de Paix, Jean Marc met Christine. Christine said they were good friends at Terre de Paix, and was surprised when Jean Marc asked her out. The more so that she knew Jean Marc was going out with her friend. She nevertheless accepted to go out with him. After some time Jean Marc said he could no longer go out with two girls at the same time and came to see Christine’s mother to say that he was in love with her. Christine’s mother did not quite like the idea, not because Jean Marc is disabled, but because he was not working and she wondered how they would get by. Her mother finally accepted and Christine and Jean Marc saw each other for three years, after which the relationship dissolved. However, she could not stop thinking about him and decided to leave her parents to go and live with Jean Marc. Her mother was green with anger. They lived together for seven years.  They got married on 14 July 2007. Although Jean Marc cannot work outside the house they are very happy together and therefore he does not mind. As Jean Marc is better than Christine in household chores, she does not mind working outside the house to sustain the family while Jean Marc works in the house and does all the household work.
Christine is five months pregnant and is not afraid that her child could be disabled. “Even if the child will turn out to be disabled. I am very much in love with his/her dad and will give the child the same kind of love.”  Jean Marc has a message to the disabled. “Even if you are physically handicapped it is all in the mind and you must say that you are normal and can behave and act as a normal person. This is the only way to come and meet others, like Christine, a rare diamond.”

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