“I’m not disabled, I’m just different.”
Those six words have been Alvin Law’s guiding principle for his entire life. While they may sound strange coming from an armless man, they have inspired millions of school children and adults as Alvin demonstrates he can do everything with his feet that his audiences do with their hands.
Given the circumstances of his birth, Alvin Law’s story could easily have been tragic rather than triumphant. He was born in rural Saskatchewan on a farm without electricity and running water. When his maternal grandmother saw her newborn grandson, she declared that he was the Devil’s child and demanded that his mother Sophie put the armless newborn up for adoption. Sophie was not alone in her decision, as hundreds of mothers around the world were giving up their Thalidomide babies for adoption or worse.
Alvin Law was fortunate that a couple in their mid fifties, who had already raised two sons of their own, decided to take him into their Yorkton, Saskatchewan home and become his foster parents.
“He was a child that nobody wanted so what are you going to do?” stated Jack Law. What Mr. Law the mechanic did do was to train Alvin’s feet to serve as his hands. Alvin practised for hours every day, and he was taught to dress himself, feed himself, and even how to screw nuts onto bolts.
When Alvin reached school age, his foster mother, Hilda Law, fought with school authorities to let him attend a regular school and be treated like any other student. The wisdom of her confidence that Alvin wasn’t disabled was demonstrated when he discovered one of the passions of his life – music. He joined the school orchestra and learned to play trombone and soon learned how to play the piano and drums, all of course with his feet.
Nevertheless, Alvin still underwent the experience of nearly all Thalidomide children when he was outfitted with artificial limbs and like most Thalidomiders he fought against having to use what he regarded as unnecessary and cumbersome artificial arms all in an effort to make him look as normal as possible.
By the time Alvin reached high school, his exceptional abilities attracted attention and he became his province’s Timmy, the poster child for disabled children. In that role, he discovered his lifelong mission and occupation. He would become a motivational speaker. Despite his differences, he was accepted for who he was.
Now in his fifties, Alvin continues to thrive, travelling through Canada and the US mostly on his own, speaking to ever larger and diverse audiences. He is happily married and the proud father of a son from his first marriage. Thalidomide did not make him a victim but a survivor. Alvin Law overcame his disability.