Abraham Hausman-Weiss lives and breathes basketball. He’s been playing B-ball now for over 11 years and feels more at home on the court than anywhere else. His coach would tell you that he has one of the best shots in the country. Abraham is one of the top college recruits in the United States this year, and he has received offers from Alabama, Mizzou, and Illinois. His final pick is the University of Alabama, where he will play basketball and attend college. He is living the dream of so many young athletes, but, what sets Abraham apart from other athletes is that he lives his dreams in a wheelchair, and is abled not disabled.
Abraham was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect that occurs in the womb when a baby’s spinal column does not close all of the way. According to the Spinal Bifida Association, Spina Bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States, with about eight births in the USA occurring daily. The thing is, after meeting Abraham the word “defect” doesn’t describe his situation at all because Abraham has ability and does not consider himself disabled. He has found a way to excel in life and doesn’t pay much attention to the fact that he’s a little different.
Abraham was born in Birmingham, Alabama, which is home to the largest Olympic and Paralympic training site in the country, the Lakeshore Foundation. At two years old, Abraham began swimming and at five he became involved with track and field. He was obsessed with speed, efficiency, and challenging himself.
But Abraham’s defining moment was when he saw his first exhibition wheelchair basketball game in First Grade. He remembers the Lakeshore Sharks playing the team from Atlanta and how the 13 year-olds danced across the court, passing, shooting, and calling plays.
That moment brought tears to his eyes. At such a young age, he realized that the fun he saw he needed to be a part of, but more importantly, it made him realize he had the potential for greatness and was abled, not disabled. The following year, his goal was to play for that team, and he did indeed play for them for the next eleven seasons, and he not only achieved greatness, but it also changed his life forever.
What makes him so good at basketball and as an athlete?
The same thing that makes any athlete better at a sport – it’s how you train. It’s a lot of experience, hard work, and intensity. My shot has become my specialty.
Abraham also gets inspiration from other professional athletes.
I like to watch the Golden State Warriors. Their ball movement is incredible. No one even comes close. They did what the Spurs did in 2014, but better.
Abraham has always maintained a positive mantra, which he learned from his first basketball coach.
There will be expectations; there will be standards. Show ‘em what you got. Show ‘em what you can do.
His parents have also never held him back and instilled a positive attitude in him.
I was never told I couldn’t do anything. I’ve constantly been exposed to what I can do. I perceive myself to be really lucky because there are so many people who have not felt that. There are so many people that even though they survived a car accident, they feel like their lives are ended. I can’t imagine having to rehabilitate after your life changing like that.
But, it hasn’t always been easy for Abraham. He remembers being left out of pickup games at the local Jewish Community Center because he was in a wheelchair, and there are times he does get treated as disabled and not abled.
I was once on the plane home from a national wheelchair basketball tournament. There was a sweet old lady who was the flight attendant. She announced, since she didn’t know any better, ‘I want to recognize we have on the plane here the Houston Hotwheels special needs wheelchair basketball team.’ Hearing that when you are a wheelchair basketball player in a national competition – it does set you off a little bit. I don’t have special needs. There is a difference between physical disability and cognitive disability. A lot of people mix that up – they say ‘Special Olympics’ or ‘special needs’, and that’s not us. It continued. She came over to me while taking drink orders and asked me, ‘What would YOU like?’ but she said it as if she was saying it to a five-year-old. I looked up from my statistics homework, and it’s like – I didn’t get angry because I knew she didn’t know but those things are frustrating sometimes, but you just have to pick your battles.
The thing is, when people meet and get to know Abraham, it doesn’t take them long to see that he is abled and not disabled and he knows it, like when he moved to his new school in Houston.
When my friends and teachers immediately understood what I could do, they didn’t treat me any differently. That’s an experience that I would wish for many other people.
Abraham has two other loves in his life, next to basketball. Music and his girlfriend, Grace. Abraham plays guitar and bass and sings and has performed live with his band downtown, but it’s Grace that really lights him up.
It takes a certain type of person to date someone with a disability. It takes a person who cares about the person they are dating that much to figure it out. Second of all, it takes someone who sees it as totally normal. Grace doesn’t see me as disabled. She jokes all the time, ‘Oh wow – you can do this even though you’re disabled!’ It’s kind of our inside joke. You have to love someone with their disability – not because of and not despite. You can’t love someone because of the struggles they’ve faced. That’s not real. And not even true as well. Grace constantly tells me that: ‘I don’t love you because and I don’t love you despite, I love you with it.’
Abraham has dreams of getting paid professionally to play basketball and living in Europe after college, and he is also a very serious student. He is pursuing a college education in mathematics, perhaps leading him to actuarial science or another numbers-related field. Abraham will be successful at whatever he does because he applies his full abled self into his endeavors.
What can we learn from Abraham?
Treat me like you would treat anyone else. I believe in education, though. If I inspire someone, then maybe that’s a good thing. If I represent a larger body of people, then that creates a good name for others with disabilities and causes other people to look at people with disabilities in a better way. As long as it’s not my sole purpose to inspire someone, I think it’s OK. I believe it’s alright to say ‘It’s amazing they can do this’ and ‘I will hold them to the same standard as anyone else.’
And, just like Abraham’s experience when he was learning how to play basketball, where it took some getting used to, and he had to coordinate everything, and it is now second nature to him, perhaps seeing someone in a wheelchair as abled instead of disabled can become second nature for us as well with some acceptance, learning and by adjusting our way of thinking.