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Speaking without words

His life is centered around words, but he can’t speak.

His inability to speak is a result of a minor disability and is simply that to him, minor. It is an insignificant aspect of his life. History and writing, however, hold substantial weight.

He also has physical disabilities, which are apparent to those who see him or spend time with him. However, he doesn’t see himself as having an impairment, and he prefers others to do the same.

Matt Craft, 25, is a published writer, historian-in-training, history blogger, and a dedicated Belmont student graduating in December.

Reading his work, it’s impossible to tell he has a disability, but rather an extraordinary ability to think and write.

Writing “is a coping mechanism by which I express myself,” Matt typed on his communicator.

“It allows me to express myself, making up for my difficulty to speak verbally.”

He writes captivating history essays and history-related blog entries on any and every subject that interests him. The capability to make history stimulating is usually a difficult task for most, but Matt does this remarkably well in his blog.

Matt said writing is an essential aspect of history because it is the best way to distribute knowledge.

He typed excitedly with his left and right pointer fingers, the only two that work, on his Lightwriter communicator. The words, however, slowly traveled across the small screen.

“History and writing are inseparably tied to one another. History teaches us how to manage the future, and writing is the medium by which we express and exchange ideas,” he said.

A solid black sweatband fits loosely around his left wrist almost like a bracelet, and a basic watch sits on his right. He wears simple black shoes with black laces, a Belmont T-shirt and a permanent smile.

The sound he most often makes is laughter.

Matt incorporates comedy into everything he does, and his advisor, Dr. Brenda Jackson-Abernathy, is a huge fan of his comedic entertainment.

“He’s funny and he’s witty and he can give you a zinger now and again but he just has a great heart,” said Jackson.

He always comes in history class at the right moment with a much-needed hilarious comment, she said.

Matt incorporates comedy into his blog and it is largely a part of why his work is so interesting to read.

“Comedy makes writing more alive,” he said.

His tone throughout his blog is light and makes a person feel as though they are embarking on an exciting historical journey with him.

He writes in one of his earlier blog entries, “Hello, Everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed the last post, ‘The Craft Report Part 1.’ If not, I’ll have to knock sense into you. LOL! Just kidding.”

Matt often posts entries with a theme or a main topic, and because of the chronological order, the reader has that unique experience of voyaging through history with him.

“Greetings, Travelers! Hope you’re ready to feel lovey-dovey! Because Valentine’s Day is this Thursday! Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day, 1929, was anything but lovey-dovey in Chicago,” he writes in a February blog entry.

His incredible ability to make history both interesting and hilarious is highly commended, said Jackson. Matt has almost 2,000 views to-date on his blog.

“He has a style and quality about his writing that causes it to be engaging to read.”

“With Matt you really get to know him reading what he writes and that’s fun and I think that’s why people are having a blast with his blog because people are starting to get to know him in ways they have never before.”

Matt described himself as honest, diligent and respectful. He is always at every history-related event on campus. Anything the history department sponsors, you can count on Matt being there, said Jackson.

As well as history, Matt has an incredible love and respect for his family.

“I model myself in life after my brother Zach. Zach is everything I hope to be– educated, successful, married.”

He looks up and smiles with every tooth showing and a wide gap between his top and bottom rows of teeth. He looks back down at his communicator intensely, thinks for a second, and begins to type a description of what he hopes his future wife will be.

“By definition, she is beautiful and intelligent. She is my equal and lets me get away with nothing,” he said.

A teacher passes by and says hello, he laughs and smiles, but as she passes, he immediately begins to type again.

“And I hope she has a creative mind as well.”

His life after Belmont is becoming more of a relevant topic because he is graduating this December. He hopes to move out of his parent’s house and get a job in something history or writing related.

His good friend, Daniel Chapdelaine, is excited for Matt’s future but also worries about him gaining his independence.

“He’s extraordinarily independent. It’s evident in a lot of areas of his life,” said Chapdelaine.

“You can see that through his writing a lot of times that he has had desire to prove his independence but unfortunately, his disabilities are entirely too limiting for him to be on his own.”

Chapdelaine said Matt’s independence is a vital component of his writing and he would be stifled without it. He stresses the importance of Matt’s writing in his life and how Matt uses it as a method of release.

“All of his writing is a different avenue to get something out,” he said.

“He does so much of it, you can tell he it’s like has to have it.”

Over the summer Matt will write nearly 200 pages of creative writing. Considering the fact he only has use of his two pointer fingers, the amount is impressive.

“He has an amazing skill at just sitting down and pounding out pages and pages of just anything really,” said Chapdelaine.

“The will power to actually sit down and write that much teamed with this vibrant imagination is probably what draws me to him as a person.”

Matt uses a program that reads his work out loud to Chapdelaine. He has read the majority of what he has written and said he enjoys Matt’s ability to portray exactly what he wants to get across and his ability to make it an interesting and easy read.

Chapdelaine clearly enjoys Matt’s writing, but Matt also grabbed the attention of a Tennessee-wide disability’s council review in 2012. Matt’s work entitled, “Inequality in Education and Beyond,” was published in the April issue of “Breaking Ground.”

Matt pauses and stares at the dark keys below him thinking carefully about the next thing he types about the honor.

“Honestly, I was kind of indifferent,” Matt gently typed on his communicator.  “I don’t really think about my disability and don’t want much to do with disability-related stuff.”

He looked up and flashed a genuine smile.

Matt wipes his mouth with his sweatband, scratches his temple as he contemplates his next move. A slight smile is scarcely visible as his head lowers directly towards the screen, his nose almost touching the keys.

“As for a final thought, my favorite Bible verse is Romans 8: 28. It means that everything happens for a reason and God has a grand design.”

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