It is clear that many people in society understand October to be the month of awareness, but the majority of people focus on the issues of breast cancer and alcohol awareness. While these are great topics that deserve the spotlight, many seem to look past the fact that October is also designated to national disability awareness efforts. Some may wonder why I care about this issue so deeply. Well, I am a young woman living an independent lifestyle who happens to be physically challenged. Living with Cerebral Palsy has never saddened me, or held me back; on the contrary it’s something that has been the catalyst for my motivation and purpose in life.
I am now in the last year of my college career at Lynn University. While I am gaining a degree in advertising and public relations, disability advocacy has always been one of my passions. Three years ago, when I first learned of Disability Awareness Month as a nationally recognized initiative I could not believe that there was an entire month allotted for educating society on this issue. The minute I closed the Google window I could feel the wheels hard at work in my mind. How could I use this month as an educational tool yet, still makes it fun and relatable for a college community? That night the slogans “I’ll be D.A.M’d” if I can’t do it”, and “D.A.M. It! with us” were born. Along with these creative tag lines came the development of innovative and interactive programming. Activities ranging from a serious panel discussion about living with disabilities, to a light hearted wheelchair basketball competition. Over the years the program has greatly developed, and has even begun finding it’s place onto other campuses. With the success of these programs it leads me to wonder why is it that we only pay close attention to an issue when we are told to?
Although disability awareness month has been a platform for creating new programs and successful ad campaigns, it seems to be time where societal ignorance is most present. Maybe it’s because I am so focused on making a change in this world, but it baffles me to see how many people live with such a closed mind and a strong sense of ignorance. Just a few weeks ago, I was sitting in an airport waiting for my flight, when this women told her young son to “Stay close, because there seems to be freaks in Florida” as she stared right at me. One may think this would anger me, but it is comments like this that make me realize how important an awareness month focusing on disability is. I like to say it is people like this that add the fuel to my fire.
Disability awareness month was not allotted so that people could focus on what I’m not capable of doing; it was created so society had the opportunity to embrace our abilities. It is important to understand that just because the month of October has come to an end doesn’t mean people’s need for an education has as well. I have come to the terms with the fact that ignorance will always be present in society and educating is an ongoing process, and without these people I would not be able to fulfill my life’s passion or purpose. I am a young woman choosing to define my abilities rather than being defined by my disability.
I experience the world from a different point of view than most: Individuality. I see a cause and I let my heart speak for itself: Passion. I let my actions speak louder than my words: Creativity.