To My Mom -- The Best Disability Advocate I Could Have Asked For


In light of the recent holiday, I cannot help but be overly sentimental about my mom. I could start off with all those clichés like “she’s my hero, she’s my warrior, she never gave up on me,” and they would be 100 percent accurate!

Mothers of a child with a disability are so much more than a cliché on a Mother’s Day card. They are the strong, unbreakable women refusing to be shaken by PCPs
(primary care providers) telling them that their child will not be able to function in society. They are our novice lawyers when SSI decides when and why your child should be receiving payments. They are women fighting stereotypes and stigmas in the community, refusing to succumb to people’s pity or inaccurate visions of people with disabilities.

Erin and her mom.
Erin and her mom.

My voice is strong, and I can honestly say I have my mother to thank for it. She not only taught me to be a voice for myself and my own needs as an adult with a disability, she also gave the best gift I could ever receive: tough love when I needed (and still need) to hear it. She has always made it clear that I will have to fight for the rights I want in life, because I, and I alone, can be the best advocate for my needs. I have met some amazing, life-changing advocates, but my mom also gave me the foresight to always be vocal about my own needs living with cerebral palsy.

Recently, in my life as a young adult in the workforce, she has told me to stand firm for appropriate compensation in the workplace, and to never accept the notion of being underemployed due to my disability. I use a walker and wheelchair, but I work hard. People with disabilities should not settle for sub-par wages. Period.

When I fight for my salary rights, I tell myself, Mom, I promise, I will pay you
back. I will make enough money so I can support you someday and give you a
nice life in retirement. I remember the nights you rubbed my muscles and soothed me after my multiple surgeries. I remember the 2 a.m. emergency trips. I remember you buying all those new pairs of shoes for me, because I drag my feet when I walk and wore them out after a week, instead of buying a new outfit for yourself. Thank you for the countless phone calls where I told you “I can’t fight the world anymore, mom. People with disabilities cannot win.” You would say “Yes, you can, you have and you will, Erin. You cannot give up.”

I remember my mom’s protection from dad’s verbal abuse. Unfortunately, growing up I did not have a supportive father who loved his child with a disability — quite the opposite. For all those people with disabilities with a set of wonderfully supportive
parents, cherish them, love them, and remember. My mom had to play the role of the mother and father after they divorced, and she was my feminist idol, fighting through the oppression.

Everything I have in life, I owe to you, mom. My principles, my voice, my independence, my travels to foreign countries. To all the mothers out there with a child with a disability — you should receive all the praise in the world for all you have
done and sacrificed. I don’t have medals, but I do have hope that someday, if my son or daughter has a disability, I can be a strong, unwavering advocate like my mom.

I love you, mom.

–Erin

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