There was a time when people with disabilities were kept behind closed doors. Being seen living my life to the fullest is important to me.
I became blind 30 years ago, at the time, I did not know what being blind would mean for my life. Now, I’m comfortable in my world. It’s important for others to see me taking public transportation, walking downtown, sitting in a restaurant. That’s how I encourage others, by just being “me”.
As a job seeker, I have faced doors shutting and opportunities evaporating even before I had the chance to prove myself, all because I am blind. But I have a strategy.
I have learned how to effectively overcome this by sitting down with a potential employer and having a conversation about their fears. Then I share my fears. This builds a bridge, in place of a closed door.
I lost my job as a computer programmer after a car crash that left me paralyzed from the waist down. Losing my job actually worked out well for me, because it freed me up to pursue wheelchair sports. That led to me being on the USA Women’s Para Olympic Team. I feel good about that.
More than 45 years ago, my life changed dramatically when I broke my neck, causing me to have to deal with a severe disability as a young person.
Living at home with a personal care assistant, rather than in a nursing home, allowed me to pursue and fulfill my dream of graduating from college and building a thriving career slowly but surely.
When it comes to the disability conversation, a ton of people are left out; a lot of those people are black people.
For a long time, I felt invisible to my health care providers. My brain misfires and I have episodes of shaking and stuttering and not being able to speak. Doctors told me “this is not real”. I finally got an accurate diagnosis when one of them insisted I get the right tests. It should not be such a struggle, but many people like me face it every day.
There’s not enough opportunities for people with disabilities to work in theater. There’s not enough opportunity to even try out. Some theater places won’t even look at you because you have a disability. They’ll say, “Yeah, you have a disability, forget it.”
As a college student, I face barriers to information. If printed material is not available electronically so that I can access it with my screen reader, I feel separated and unequal.
It wears on my self-esteem; I’ve experienced it so much. I feel that I’m the one educating others.