by Allie Schneider, registration coordinator, NAC
I’m the oldest of three girls and am the only one with a disability. My disability is Spina Bifida but in spite of that, I live on my own, I drive a car, I have a dog named Jack, I absolutely love doting on my nieces and nephews and traveling to new places. I bike, swim, waterski, scuba dive and ride horses.
Living with Spina Bifida has taught me that differences can actually bring humans together, which is why I embrace my uniqueness full force. Whether you have a disability like me or feel “different” for other reasons, I invite you to embrace your uniqueness because you’re the one and only you on the planet. On my journey to accepting myself, exactly as I am, I learned a few valuable lessons.
I am capable
My parents wanted to give me the same opportunities any parent would give their child, so they prioritized independence and experiences for me, just like my siblings. Because of this, I was introduced to the National Ability Center at four years old when I took part in their ski program. Skiing with my family was one of the first times I understood how capable I was. My disability didn’t prevent me from learning a new sport or spending time partaking in a recreational activity with my family. Instead, I could accept and celebrate my journey and who I wanted to become.
Today, I can experience all the outdoor activities I love to do. Thanks to the access and knowledge gained from my time with the National Ability Center, I can waterski with my family or ride a bike with my girlfriends.
No matter what challenge you’re facing, whether it’s mental, physical or emotional, look for activities to participate in. Understanding how capable you are as a person is such an incredible gift.
Acceptance and inclusion matters
There has never been a better time for inclusion with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) becoming more understood and more of a priority for organizations like companies and schools. While this is getting better, being seen as different in school, work, and social settings may still be a struggle for some.
In my life there have been times I’ve been worried about being accepted. People often think that because I’m in a wheelchair, I can’t do things others can do. But the reality is, I can do things just like everyone else – it just might take me a little longer or look a little different.
When you’re surrounded by a world that tries to point out your differences, it’s important to have a safe place. As a participant and now an employee at the National Ability Center, I have found a judgment free zone, a place where I’m accepted for who I am, no matter what. We all need a place where it’s okay to be different and to be who you are.
Further, acceptance in action is critical. Accommodations for people with disabilities is essential for those companies who prioritize diversity and inclusion. It’s an outward representation of understanding and acknowledgement that while I may not know what your challenge is like, I’m going to support you through it.
There’s power in letting go
We all face challenges in life, but it’s truly about how you motivate yourself to overcome those challenges. It may be impactful, but it doesn’t have to control your life.
As a kid you don’t really know or understand that you’re different because the other kids don’t really notice it either, that’s the great thing about being a kid! But as a teenager that’s when I learned this lesson. Spina Bifida may be part of my journey but it doesn’t define who I am or what I can accomplish, growing up that was a powerful moment of growth for me. Even today as an adult I still sometimes have to remind myself of this lesson.
You don’t have to let whatever challenge you’re going through define the type of person you are. It’s okay to be different and to deem yourself worthy and capable, exactly as you are.