Tag Archives: Disability Awareness

Disability Discrimination: A Problem We Need to Talk About

15 Nov

This week, I gave a presentation on disability discrimination in one of my college classes. I had been doing research for the past few months, and I enjoyed bringing this problem to light since it is very personally relevent. Therefore, I knew I had to share it with the blogging community as well

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines an individual with disabilities as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that does not allow them to perform one or more major life activities, and disability discrimination is the act of not viewing individuals with disabilities as fully functioning members of society whose voices deserve to be heard.

Disability discrimination occurs most commonly in the workplace, and it stretches across many different disciplines as well, such as psychology, law, and education. Within the field of psychology, discrimination is harmful for individuals with disabilities because it may lead to feelings of isolation, anger, depression, or anxiety. Within the field of law, disability discrimination is the least discussed type of discrimination law. Furthermore, within the field of education, the presence of disability discrimination perpetuates the feelings of exclusion found in school systems. Disability exclusion also increases fear aimed towards individuals who are different.

(from The Today Show)

The problem of disability discrimination is serious, and it influences individuals with and without disabilities. There is not just one group at fault. Each one of us is responsible for the persistence of this problem, and it is a problem that deserves to be discussed in order for individuals with and without disabilities to feel comfortable in the world in which they live.

But the question is: What can we do?

  1. At an individual level, we should strive to understand that instead of disabilities being something that causes these kinds of individuals to be seen as less deserving of being heard, the differences should be seen as a contributing factor to create a unique society with more perspectives available.
  2. At a university level, disability awareness events could be very beneficial. By providing awareness to disabilities, college students and faculty may be able to better understand the struggle of living with a disability, visible or invisible, which they may not have otherwise been exposed.
  3. We should use person-first language: “individual with disability” rather than “disabled individual.”

Disability discrimination is a serious global and ethical issue within our society today. Since I have a physical disability of Cerebral Palsy, I can attest to the importance of inclusion. My experiences of exclusion made me stronger, but the times I felt included helped shape me into who I am today.

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Autmn in the Mountains

Sports Illustrated Kids Brings Awareness To CP.

4 Feb

A few days ago, I watched the inspirational story of brothers Connor and Cayden Long, the winners of the Sports Illustrated Kids 2012 SportsKids of the Year award. However, I have found myself watching it more than once over the last few days simply because it’s that amazing, but be sure to have your Kleenex ready!

The story of Connor and Cayden not only brings awareness to Cerebral Palsy, but it also emphasizes that those with disabilities deserve to be treated like everyone else. Connor, brother to Cayden who has CP, has done something incredible. Through his decision to include his brother in triathlons, he is reshaped the course of his brother’s life, whether he knows it or not. He’s making a point to say that even though his brother has CP, he shouldn’t be viewed as any less than anyone else. Through Connor’s desire to connect with his brother, he is giving Cayden a voice that may not have been heard otherwise. He is helping others become more aware of CP and other disabilities, which is definitely needed in today’s society. Hopefully the more aware people become regarding CP and other disabilities, the less fear there will be toward those who are “different.”

The fact that Connor, who is only 9 years old, was able to make so many important points concerning the acceptance of those with disabilities is incredible. Sadly, there probably aren’t even that many adults that would have the courage or understanding to make such claims. Though I know that some of that fear stems from a lack of education and awareness about those with disabilities, it’s why we need more people like Connor who have a background with people with disabilities (whether it’s a family member or friend) and who are not afraid to get up and say what needs to be said. Though there is still a long way to go regarding society’s acceptance of those with disabilities, allowing the public to become more aware through stories such as this is how it begins.

The story of Connor and Cayden is yet another emphasis on why I have chosen to share my own story of CP. Though it may take quite a while for me to actually get my complete story on paper, I know there are people with disabilities who have some of the same pain, fears, hopes, and dreams as I do, but are unable to express how they are feeling or just want to know they are not alone. That’s why I’ve kept on writing. These stories need to be brought to light, both for those who have lived through the experiences as well as for those who are striving to understand just what someone they know with a disability is feeling.

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.

The problem with the word ‘disabilities.’

26 Sep

“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.” -Fred Rogers

Due to the presence of a new person in my life, I’m slowly beginning to understand what has set me apart from so many others with a similar disability (and even those who are non-disabled): my drive. Yesterday, this particular new person in my life said: “You have incredible drive. It’s what I like about you. If you’re standing at the bottom of a hill and you know that you’ve got to get to the top, you’re going to find a way to reach the top, even if it means that you have to push yourself harder than ever before. I admire that so much.”

Even though I’ve known that I’ve had an incredibly strong drive for the majority of my life, giving up or walking away from something just because it’s hard has been something that I don’t consider often simply because in my mind, in terms of my disability, I’ve never had another option. I pushed through because I had to. However, due to the current new person in my life, I’m beginning to see that my drive has the potential to help not just me, but so many others around me as well. Also, over the last few months as I have done more introspection, I have come to understand that focusing on my abilities is a much better way to live rather than focusing on the ways that I am limited on a daily basis. Though that may sound obvious, I can’t tell you how easy it is to slip into the hole of self-pity. Even though for my entire life I have never wanted to accept pity from others, I place so much pity on myself through my own thoughts and actions. Maybe that has to do with my low self-esteem or something else. However, I have a gut feeling that this new person in my life has the ability to change many of the negative outlooks that I’ve had towards myself for so long.

Though I may say that I have a physical disability on a regular basis, maybe I’m focusing on the wrong things. Maybe I should be focusing on the things that I’m able to do rather than those that I can’t. I know from personal experience that this is so much easier said than done. However, when a new person has come into my life who thinks so highly of me, I owe it to both of us to at least try.

World CP Day: Leaving My Mark.

5 Sep

I hate that I didn’t realize until late yesterday evening that yesterday was the very first “World Cerebral Palsy Day” in the United States. According to http://www.worldcpday.org, “World Cerebral Palsy Day is an innovative way for 17 million people with CP to tell the world how they want to make their life better. World Cerebral Palsy Day is also the way people with CP can make it a reality.” Upon reading the website’s explanation of World CP Day, I thought of one thing: I thought of the way I’m already working on telling the world how I’m making my life better. I’m writing my memoir of what it’s been like to live with Cerebral Palsy, and even though I’m doing it for me, I’m also doing it for the other 16,999,999 people who may be struggling to find someone who they can relate to, or simply someone who can say, “I know exactly how you feel.”

Through writing my memoir, I want to be that person for those other 16,999,999 people who may not have someone to listen. The funny thing is…I never thought I would be an advocate for Cerebral Palsy. My disability was something that I tried so hard to get away from. However, I should know that you can’t run from something that will be forever a part of you. For much of my childhood, having CP wasn’t something I was proud of. I wanted to get as far away from it as possible. I wanted to be treated as if I was just like any other kid that lived on my block. However, ever since starting to write my memoir, I’ve become someone I never thought I’d be: I’ve become the girl with Cerebral Palsy who wants to share her story of overcoming obstacles with the world. Before it dawned on me that I had the power to impact others with my words, the idea of writing my memoir hadn’t surfaced. But truthfully, my idea to start writing about my life came in a single moment one night in January. All I was doing was thinking about what I faced and how for my entire life I had been looking for someone who could understand me. However, on that cold night in January, even though I hadn’t found someone who could understand me, I realized how bad I wanted to be that person for other kids with Cerebral Palsy.

Writing my memoir of what I’ve been through has been an incredibly slow process. Since January, I’ve only written 14 pages. Even though that small number makes me cringe, I also know that writing my memoir is the only thing that will finally allow me to accept myself as well as help other kids who are currently faced with what I have been through, and continue to go through on a daily basis. So yes, it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but when I think of the look of love and comfort I might receive from just one kid with CP, that’s worth so much more. It may even be worth everything.