One of the most profound experiences I have had as a psychologist happened after I gave a talk at an elementary school. A five-year old with cerebral palsy came up to me and asked,
“Are you really a doctor?”
When I said yes, she radiated with glee and exclaimed,
“Yay!!! I want to be a doctor too! But I never thought I could until I met you.”
At birth, the doctors cut the umbilical 6 minutes before I was born. That caused a lack of oxygen to the brain and the experts assumed I would not survive. The doctors told my parents if I survived I would be a vegetable. At that point, they gave them the option to take me off life-support.
In that moment, my parents had a choice. There was a lot of fear of the unknown. They chose to embrace the unknown and move past the fear. However, our society is one that becomes quite disabled when they are faced with things they cannot understand. We live in a society that has thrived on defining normal. When things don’t look or sound like we think they should we respond by either avoiding, rejecting, shaming, or eliminating. The intent is to make us feel better and the impact is that the other feels less than and demoralized or defective.
So, what can you do? Fear is the emotion that should signal you to learn more. Open that door and discover what you don’t know. Don’t assume the worst. Create opportunities to engage. Figure out how you can be an agent for inclusion rather than exclusion. Think outside the status quo and work together to identify, embrace, and value the assets of disability. The power of asking someone about their lives & Dreams. Asking the question is the first step in becoming an ally to the community
For me, the pillars of success with a disability are the pillars of success for all abilities: To be curious, be creative, be adventurous, and most importantly, love yourself.
You can be an agent of change, embrace disability, and engage in your community
Do you want to reference the disability community in this context?
Do you intend, expect, desire to be hired to speak about the disability community, or about professional achievement in general? How to approach wording in this example?