Tag Archives: Disabilities Advocate

When the stars align…with Easter Seals UCP.

1 Dec

Easter Seals UCP is a non-profit organization that supports families dealing with disabilities and mental health challenges. Over the past few months, I have been researching different Cerebral Palsy organizations to see if I could come across any information tailored towards adults with CP. Though I still haven’t found much useful information, I did find Easter Seals UCP. Upon looking at their website and the numerous blog posts by families dealing with disabilities, I was inspired. I was inspired not to focus on my own physical issues at the moment, but instead chose to focus on something that has just been coming to life since I started sharing my story of CP: my role as an advocate.

If you would have told me two years ago that my current primary focus would be using my own story and my personal experience with CP to advocate for kids with disabilities, I probably would not have believed you. I have never imagined that talking about my own struggles would be something I’d be able to do…much less want to do. However, since that is how things seem to have evolved, once I realized there were numerous Easter Seals offices across every state, I knew I had to get involved. The need to get involved led me to find out if there was an Easter Seals UCP office in Asheville, and I found it.

After connecting with some people in the Easter Seals UCP Asheville office through email and phone conversations and getting such a positive response regarding my desire to get involved within the Asheville community, I could not be more excited. At this point, I’m unsure how things will progress. However, after learning that the Asheville office works directly with families in the community, I asked if there had ever been any kind of program implemented that deals with the emotional barriers that a disability presents. Though there isn’t currently a program in place within the Asheville community that deals with the emotional side of disabilities, I told the Easter Seals Asheville office that I felt it would be incredibly beneficial for the community and that I’d be willing to help in any way I can. Long story short, I’ll be meeting with those at the Asheville office to discuss ways in which this kind of program could be implemented as well as general ways in which I can work with Easter Seals as a CP/disabilities advocate within the community.

Words cannot even express how excited I am about this possible opportunity. However, I know that without this blog and the incredibly supportive community of WordPress, I would not have been able to reach the point of talking so openly about my disability and what I’ve faced. For my entire life, I have struggled with the concept of belonging. However, I guess the part of my life that I was trying so hard to escape from was where I needed to be all along. Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with someone who knew what I was going through during the years of my intense surgeries and physical therapy, I want to be that person for other kids with disabilities, and I want them to know they don’t have to go through it alone. Therefore, to all the families dealing with disabilities and the entire Easter Seals community, thank you. Thank you for helping me find another dream to strive towards.

Copyright: Easter Seals UCP.

Copyright: Easter Seals UCP.

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Bringing awareness to disabilities.

22 Oct

I’m proud to announce that my university, UNC Asheville, is having its very first Disability Awareness Week starting today, which is hosted by UNCA’s Disability Services Office. Even though I wasn’t involved in bringing this event together, I am very honored that my university is making such a positive decision by understanding that we need to bring awareness to disabilities. Even though awareness is something that takes more than just one week dedicated to disabilities, I believe that this is a step in the right direction. Through doing research for my community psychology project on the social stigma of physical disabilities, I’ve found that the stigma persists because of two main thing: a lack of knowledge and simple fear. Though fear seems like a small component, it drives much of the social stigma of physical disabilities since being “different” is purely a cultural construct.

One of my favorite events of UNCA’s Disability Awareness Week is its “Wall of Oppression.” Starting today, there will be a huge poster hung in the student union where people can write some of the hurtful statements they have received, heard or read regarding disabilities. In my opinion, this is such an awesome way to bring awareness to the stigma that’s connected with disabilities. I think it’ll help a lot of people realize that the strongest component behind the stigma is fear. So many people are afraid of what’s “different.” My university has the chance to change that…or at least try.

Along with the “Wall of Oppression,” at the end of this week there will be a fire pit gathering in which the “Wall of Oppression” will be burned in a symbolic act freeing people with disabilities from oppressive words and thoughts. I love this idea so much. Throughout so much of my life, I’ve heard it all. I’ve been teased, laughed at, and avoided…and this week of Disability Awareness Week is acting as a way to inform students that this behavior is not okay. Just because someone is “different” doesn’t mean they should be treated as less than anyone else.

My entire life I’ve tried to find a place where I fit in or belonged, and the fact that the social stigma of disabilities is so prevalent in our society has made fitting in even more difficult. However, over the past few months, I’ve realized that I’ve known my place all along. It’s to advocate for myself and others will disabilities, especially for those who aren’t able to speak for themselves. I strive to make people with disabilities realize that they are not alone and that I understand their pain and how hard it is to put up the daily fight. After all, we are the only ones who can understand what we’ve faced. No one else knows our pain. Through continual advocation of disabilities, I’m helping so much of society who may not know someone with a disability have a glimpse into our world. If that’s not worth as much time as I can give, I don’t know what is.