||An Invincible Spirit
The Story of Don Fulk
As signed to Janet Allen
“Don taught us how to be a real independent living center. Nothing was easy; every issue that came up on the road to Don’s independence was a challenge and a struggle, but the experience pushed us and we learned from it. We were not going to let Don down; all of us were committed to Don’s freedom and independence.”
—Kathleen Kleinmann, Executive Director, TRPIL (Transitional Paths to Independent Living)
“An Invincible Spirit not only tells the story of Don Fulk, but also captures a period in the history of deaf education and the fight for equal rights and access that should be remembered. Don’s stories of isolation and desire to connect with his family and friends are profound. His resilience in the face of adversity is remarkable. Don’s story is a must-read.”
—Jessica Scott, Assistant Professor of Deaf Education, Georgia State University
“Don and Janet take us through a journey of love, faith, determination, and strength. Don’s experiences with deafness, isolation, and an accident that left him in a wheelchair remind us that we don’t always get to choose where life takes us, but we can choose wisdom and courage when faced with crisis and loss. Deafness and physical disability have nothing on this amazing man. May his legacy and inspiration live through each of us who read his story.”
—Renee’ Sites, Deaf Services Manager at TSHA and 2017–2019 President of the Oklahoma Association of the Deaf
Profoundly deafened as an infant, Don Fulk didn’t learn his name or go to school until the age of ten. When he was eighteen years old and a budding superstar on his football and basketball teams, he broke his neck in a swimming accident, and became paralyzed. After his injury, he was confined to a bed in his parents’ home for eight years, unable to move and barely able to communicate. After his family could no longer care for him, he spent nine years in a nursing home where he suffered from abuse and neglect.
Yet through a life marred by isolation and frustration, Fulk endured with strength, humor, and grace. He never gave up pursuing his dreams for independence and self-worth, and improving the lives of others. He fought a system that was unfair and discriminatory, and helped pave the way for people with disabilities to live independently. Don Fulk signed his story to author Janet Allen, describing his difficult home life, the incredible friends who changed his life, and his dramatic escape from an abusive nursing home. An Invincible Spirit is a story of hope, empowerment, and the battles people with disabilities have fought—and continue to fight—to improve the quality of their lives.
Don Fulk (1942-1998) was a deaf person with quadriplegia whose advocacy helped pave the way for people with disabilities to live independently.
Janet Allen is a retired deaf education teacher and a sign language interpreter in Tulsa, OK.