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When local author Louis Vendetti was around 7 years old, he said he remembered looking up to the sky and yelling at God, “Why did you make me like this? Why did you put me on this Earth to suffer?” He felt like he could not live his life normally like everyone else around him and he described his life then as “challenge after challenge after challenge.” He required aides to help him go from elementary school through college and he’s had to deal with buildings that are not handicap-friendly.
“That was among the low points in my life and I felt like I was stuck in a rut so to speak,” said Vendetti, who has cerebral palsy, and has alternated between using crutches and a wheelchair throughout his life so far.
According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for disorders that impact an individual’s ability to move, and maintain balance and posture. They could also experience seizures, spinal and joint problems, and issues with intellect, vision, hearing and speaking. The most common motor disability in childhood, it is the result of abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain.
Now 22, Vendetti has a new outlook on life and wants to share that in his new self-published book, “My Disability Doesn’t Define Me,” available in bookstores and online. While the book was first launched on Amazon on Jan. 1, it had a scheduled book launch party at the Delmar Bistro on 180 Delaware Ave. on Sunday, Jan. 27 from 3 to 5 p.m. He explained that it covers his life through his school years up to college and “I talk about my different experiences and it shows that I’m a regular person and it won’t just focus on my disability.”
Vendetti lives in Delmar and he said he always wanted to become a writer “so I can create worlds and bring readers on an adventure. I made a goal to become an author by age 20 when I was young and I finally did it with this book.” He also has an interest in business, for which he studied at Hudson Valley Community College and graduated with honors on Dec. 15, 2017. He then said that he first began work on this book the very next day on Dec. 16.
“I’d started reworking the book’s outline and manuscript because I want to write on every school semester, and I figured my last semester was still fresh in my mind so I started outlining for that one,” he said. “It took me three months to write the whole book because I knew what I wanted to write and say; it’s just trying to get the words down on paper which is challenging.”
He added that the book contains numerous short pieces written by some key people in his life, including his elementary school aide Karen Anthony, and his middle and high school aide Paul Moylan — he credited such people as helping him navigate through his educational years. “It’s great to show the people’s perspective of working with a student with a disability and how working with them is just like working with able-bodied students,” he said. “They didn’t see me as disabled, but as a student trying to go through school and college and getting a degree. They didn’t let me use my disability as an excuse because that’s just not how I live my life.”
Following that theme, Vendetti said he does not let his disability completely limit him from doing things he personally enjoys. First, he has been an enthusiastic skier since he was six, having won gold and silver medals from competing in the Adaptive Empire State Games up in Lake Placid back in 2006 and 2007. Second, he was able to travel to other states like Arizona and Illinois as well as abroad to Austria and Italy. Concerning the latter country, he recalled being in Venice for two weeks in summer 2017 and riding the gondola there but he was not able to hike through the Italian Alps. “It was my first time ever abroad and alone without my family, and despite my disability, I was still able to go to Italy and experience almost everything as normal people did,” he reminisced.
Vendetti noted that “My Disability Doesn’t Define Me” is his first book and looking ahead, he mentioned already working on a new fiction novel which is “my first attempt to make my world. My next biggest goal is to become a full-time author too although I don’t know exactly how to get there.”
When asked if he has one message to the public about his book and personal journey overall, he said, “We all may have challenges in life so if you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out and don’t feel like you’re all alone.” He then concluded, “I’m a regular person with challenges and I have interests like everyone else — I like business, reading and writing a lot. So really, what I want to try and get through with this book is that people with disabilities are not just their disabilities. They’re people too who have interests in life.”