I wanted to take a few moments to talk with you about the founding principles of the Guardians of Hope Academic Advsing Philosophy. I subscribe to the ideology that disability is a social construct, meaning it is created by humans. The collection of physical manifestations associated with disability as a label are ascribed, not inherent. What this means is that the “limitations” society informs people with disabilities that they have are subjective. These are PERCEIVED limitations. The necessity of accommodations for facilitating educational accessibility does not signify any kind of weakness or lack of ability.
Because I believe we all have the right to accessible, inclusive education, I am dedicated to advocating for nothing less than equal. The self-confidence I developed throughout my school years empowered me to never think twice about asking for what I needed. The mentality of motivation and self-image can be crucial in the trajectory of your college experience. Do you believe you deserve to have equal access, education and success in college? YES! You do! I am here for you, every step of the way.
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With more than 40 million Americans with disabilities (2016 statistics) and federally mandated accessibility laws, you might be surprised to learn that a disproportionately low number of people with disabilities have a college degree. Individuals age 25 and older with a disability who have a college degree comprise 16.4% of the population in comparison with 34.6% of people without a disability (Bureau of Labor.).
Societal standards and expectations for people with disabilities make it difficult to pursue higher education. Not only are there few public role models to demonstrate a path toward this journey, there is resistance from bureaucratic institutions toward people with disabilities in pursuing their aspirations. We are here to tell you that you can pursue your dreams of higher education! No matter what the circumstances of your ability levels or health, you deserve equal access, reasonable accommodations and support. In addition to validating your educational aspirations, we can provide advocacy and education to facilitate your progress in a higher education. Whether you’re interested in online classes or attending school on campus, there are a variety of tools available to empower your success. Let’s connect with a complimentary conversation! Message us to schedule an appointment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Social media has a way of concealing aspects of us that are otherwise unapparent in daily life. Unless pertinent to disability awareness or advocacy, I don’t often talk about having a physical disability, mostly, because it’s not important in my self image. However, in an unexpected way, bringing this up in conversation with somebody over the phone, can be an immediate, revealing snapshot of their true colors. Unlike chronic illness, people take a much more aggressive stance about physical disability; they either acknowledge it and move on or they say something blatantly offensive. The latter is something I experienced in a phone conversation last night. I somehow suspected this person would fall into this category despite other indications of integrity and charm; there was just something not right. And then, there was something very not right when he projected offensive, immature and amoral commentary about cerebral palsy. And just like that, I knew I would not waste any more time getting to know him. Funny how one sentence can change everything.
And yet, in the seconds that lapsed between what he said and my brain scrambling to believe it, I tried to make excuses for him. Maybe I had misunderstood. Maybe this was some kind of inappropriate but well intentioned commentary. But then I knew. The fact that anybody would actually even think this way, is offensive and demoralizing.
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If you’ve had drop out of college because of chronic illness and are looking to return, or have recently re-enrolled, I am available to support you! Knowing your legal rights for disability accommodations, tips for self advocacy, recommended adaptations to empower and facilitate your success without sacrifice are some of the things that I can help you with. I understand these challenges intimately and have found success in navigating the educational realm! I graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Chico in 2011. I found unique accommodations and arrangements to make possible my dream of completing my education with cerebral palsy and multiple health challenges.
You can do it! I can validate, listen, guide and celebrate with you along your unique educational path.
(P.S. I cofounded a nonprofit organization serving children with and without disabilities. This flyer is from a disability awareness and empowerment workshop we hosted in 2010.) Income generated from these services would support my medical treatment.
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By the age of seven, I had my spiel committed to memory like a seasoned politician. At the beginning of each school year, I would politely educate my pupils about the nature of my disability. I was cognizant to provide only pertinent information, not an excess of fear- inducing data. Even at this age, with my sun-drenched hair sprouting from the top of my head, I knew what I was saying was significant. Significant not only in universal context of the topic, but also in the weight it bore on my personal well-being. Would my classmates accept me?
Though concealed was my motive to detour any teasing and tears, the macro level threads of awareness I was sewing entered my mind. It had already become intimidatingly apparent to me that whatever alternative views–beliefs that did not criminalize me for having a disability–I wished others cultivated, were going to have to be planted by me.
“Even though I walk and talk differently than you do, I am the same as you are.” I can still recall the words I imparted to my peers, teachers, and adults revolving around my world. “I am not contagious, it is safe for you to be my friend.”
In myriad contexts, with varying diction, I am still tossing out these reassurances like shimmering copper into a wishing well. I am asking others to erase the dangerous indoctrinations of their youth about others with disabilities, and to embrace diversity, recognize shared humanity, and reach out with respect.
Why should you care?
Inevitably, you or somebody you love will develop a disability. This is a statistical fact. With equal rights and access declining daily, the best thing we can do is learn to support one another. Conversations about navigating interactions with intention and undiscriminating respect are more imperative than ever.
The censorship of the ugliness surrounding chronic illness is abhorrent. My socialization as a human who has endured torturous pain and suffering, makes me feel as though I’m a dog in obedience training. My honesty about such intense trauma is deemed “negative” and thus goes ignored and invalidated by most people I know. On the rare occasion that I share socially appropriate, productive tidbits, I am rewarded with attention. Frankly, this really grinds me to the core. My unsavory situation challenges the privileges enjoyed by the healthy and exposes guilt.
Instead of turning away from the perceived “negativity,” I encourage healthy folk to validate, respect and jump into others’ realities. Recognize the vulnerability and instability of our very beings, and the permeating struggle we endure. Turn not away, but toward…
I am using this example to illustrate not only how society adamantly steers attention away from suffering and toward production but also how we expect the chronically ill to get something positive out of their illnesses. I’m supposed to be an underdog: to shine through the adversity, to overcome my pain, to have gained something golden and triumphant from my suffering. This is all nonsense, in my experience.
By focusing on a happy ending, we are detracting from the validity of an inhumane now. We are also, as a society, preaching the ideology that if somebody is not doing something tangible, their value isn’t adding up to much. In my example below, I participated in a normative behavior, seemingly overcoming my limitations, for the sake of conformity and appearing normal. In other words, I sucked it up and put on a happy, heroic face for the benefit of the healthy, who, in turn, demonstrated their approval because I was affirming their privilege. Make sense?
This system of measuring worth through production and the demand to create beauty from torture is damaging to people chronic illness, among others.
We all deserve a more life affirming mentality. A paradigm of morality cultivated through unconditional respect, proclaiming value for all and actualizing the behavior to construct a more engaging reality for all humans.
My inquisitive mind was piqued by this pensive comment made on my post I’m Not Your Poster Child. Danny illuminated the topic of identity and the influence socialization plays in how we identify ourselves and which identities assume prominence for us. I have been fascinated with this concept throughout my life, exploring it informally as a child and more formally in the academic environment throughout my undergraduate career. For my undergraduate honors thesis, I developed a research project for which I interviewed individuals with physical disabilities. My research question aimed to understand how the individuals believed their socialization with the label of disability impacted their romantic relationships and sexual identity. The results were fascinating, to say the least! That, however, is another topic on which I could write a book, and nearly did.
Today I invite you to consider the questions posed by Danny. Please comment below and let me know, in rank order, what five characteristics do you use to identify yourself? Thank you in advance for participating!
Thank you to Danny for inspiring this conversation. You can visit his blog here:
Danny W. Sobriety blog – 21 years sober still figuring things out