What I Can Offer as a Disability Advocate
Every person who lives with a disability faces challenges in this world. I believe the core issue that stands in the way of those with disabilities having a voice that’s heard is simply how the world defines what a disability is. For instance, Vocabulary.com states that a disability is the condition of being unable to perform as a consequence of physical or mental unfitness. The definition itself bothers me because it is so vague and leaves room for someone to make the unfair assumption that those who have a disability can’t function at all. That is both unfair and untrue.
I’m here today to provide my own definition of the word disability. I’m here to tell you that while cerebral palsy is a part of me, it does not define me at all; I’m a perfectly normal college graduate who is just trying to make her way in society. I haven’t been dealt the smoothest of cards, but I have accepted life for what it is and I’ve made the best of what I have. I feel I can offer three very important qualities to the ever-growing disability community: a voice, encouragement, and a spirit of boundless determination.
I cannot use my voice to speak for every disabled person, because each situation is unique and everyone has their own specific sets of challenges to face that vary vastly in types and severity. I do not understand what another person is going through, and they can’t perfectly understand me. But I can and will advocate for others.
First of all, I want to do whatever I can to rid the world of the stigma that tends to be placed on someone automatically just because they are “different.” On my journey, I have done whatever I could to let people know they can accomplish anything they set their mind to. I graduated from college with a 3.6 GPA. I don’t drive, but I don’t let that stop me. I have to rely on family and friends to go where I need to go. I still live life. I cook. I clean. I do laundry. I do everything I’m physically capable of doing.
Encouragement is my main purpose and hope in terms of writing. I used to be very shy, but it has opened doors for me and given me the confidence I need to speak up and help others. I have always lived my life to inspire others. When I was in the seventh grade, I wanted to be on the girls’ basketball team, and I am so thankful that my mom let me dream. Knowing I probably wouldn’t make the team, she still happily took me for a physical, let my sign up and try out with every ounce of love and support she had. I did not make the team, but I was the team manager for a little less than half the season. I had so much fun.
I hope to encourage others to keep dreaming and keep going, because you never know where life can take you. I make accommodations wherever it is necessary; another example besides the driving is that I cannot use a broom. I’ve tried. I can’t hold it right in my hands. My mom solved that problem by buying me a Swiffer Dry Sweeper. I love it. I believe there is a solution to every problem. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got and learn to work around the hard stuff.
Lastly, as an advocate I hope to instill in people a sense of determination. As I’ve stated, I know each situation is different, but anyone can benefit from really being aware of the opportunities that lie before them. Many people are unaware there is a whole community dedicated to advocacy, disability rights, and activism. I am determined and focused on lending my voice to speak on issues, spread the word about all of these organizations, encourage others to get involved, and inspire as much as I can.
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Thinkstock image by Victor Tongdee.