“I have cerebral palsy and I am considered severe. I was 10 weeks premature and every 15 minutes the doctor would come in and say, ‘She is still alive.’ Here I am 23 years later. I graduated from high school and have two years of college and now looking into starting my own business.
School was hard. In kindergarten they saw I had a disability and didn’t bother to teach me the basics instead they gave me colors and a coloring book and stuck me in a room because they didn’t expect I would have the capacity to learn. My mom found a new school for me and taught me, too. By the time I was in 2nd grade, I was reading and doing math at a 3rd-grade level and my vocabulary was at a 7th-grade level.
I made good grades and got along with teachers, but it was hard to fit in and make connections with children my own age. The teachers got me through, but who doesn’t want to have friendships? I had some problems with being bullied. Someone started the rumor that I would use my electronic wheelchair to run over people’s feet to settle personal vendettas. I won the 8th grader of the year award and my certificate is still in my house. It felt so good to be recognized and appreciated.
Without my mom, I would be in the wind. My parents divorced when I was seven and my dad didn’t have much to do with me. My mom taught me to be as independent as possible and wouldn’t let me think I was lesser than someone else.I don’t use terms that separate me from someone else. I say I am going for a walk, not I am going out on my scooter.
My mom could have saved herself a lot of trouble to put me in the system, but she chose to keep me. I want to earn my own income so I don’t have to depend on her. I have always wanted to do something related to disability advocacy. I had to learn early how to speak up for myself because society is still living in the dark ages of disability awareness. People don’t expect people with challenges like mine to have good paying jobs. The hardest part of every day is community connection, the physical going out in Mobile. If I want to go a few blocks from here, I have to ask my mom to drive me. I have to complain about accessible sidewalks for me and others. We want to be outside and get around on our own. These issues deserve attention. I want to start a business to help other businesses be in compliance with ADA. There are big fines for violations but by making changes they can also attract more business from people with disabilities. If you don’t have disabilities, you don’t think about it. Leaders want to make Mobile safe and friendly, but they also have to pay attention to the needs of people with challenges to make it happen.
Cerebral palsy affects how you walk and it can severely affect your mental capacities. Some people can be all there, but can’t verbally communicate. It varies. I am severe but I can do many things by myself, but I can do it because of a medicine that goes through a pump and into my spine, Without it, I would be permanently stuck in the fetal position.
People have disabilities but we can give back and do things for society. We want to be in our church and communities, we don’t have to sit around all day. Maybe a person can’t walk, or can’t see or doesn’t have their full mental capacity, but that is not the entirety of their definition. We all have the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. There are days I make a connection and help someone care and pay attention and I feel like I am on cloud nine.
One day I am going to pass and I want to know that I made a difference in the way that people with disabilities live. There will be people after I am gone who will deal with similar issues and I want to make their life better. We have to see the value of the lives of all people.”