Man born without legs tells of challenges in ‘Double Take’

When Kevin Connolly was born in Helena, Mont., on his mother’s birthday, Aug. 18, 1985, he was a healthy baby boy. But there was one problem – Kevin was born without any legs.

Considering his birth defect, Kevin’s parents might have chosen to coddle and pamper their disabled son, but they didn’t. They treated him like he was normal, expecting him to go to school, do chores and play just like any other kid.

In his memoir, “Double Take,” Kevin Connolly takes a look at his life — the life of a kid growing up in rural Montana who found the gumption and grit to become a champion mono-skier, a pretty good skateboarder and an expert on the art of observing people observing (or staring) at him.

Ever resourceful and a big fan of the TV show “MacGyver,” Kevin’s dad developed a series of devices that would help make Kevin’s life a little easier, the most successful being the “butt-boot,” which allowed Kevin to scoot along using his hands without tearing up his hips. Kevin also was encouraged to find some type of sports activity in which to participate, and after a disastrous try at wrestling, Kevin found a true joy in skiing and would go on to master the mono-ski and participate in the X-Games.

As a college student, Kevin set out to experience the world, but it seemed the world was not quite ready to experience him. He knew that he was different, but after becoming frustrated with people constantly staring at him as he sped along on his skateboard throughout New Zealand and Europe, Kevin came up with the idea of hiding a small camera and photographing the people who were gawking at him.

“Double Take” is the story of Kevin’s journey, and the 33,000 photographs he took as he explored 17 countries, including China, Bosnia, Japan and the Ukraine. These images, some included in the book, are at times startling because of the downright rudeness captured in the pictures.

Kevin says it best when he reflects on being disabled, “I don’t think of myself as disabled. As I interpret the word, you are only disabled if you are incapable of overcoming the challenges presented in any given situation.” He continues, “To my mind, I am perfectly able-bodied … being disabled is a matter of choice.”

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