Monday, August 20, 2012

Nationals, Interview days and Workshops Part 1

Wednesday began the Leadership Institute and judging sessions. While they say you are 'on' as soon as you walk in the door, this was when we met the judging and things began to really wind up. This was when nerves started running high.

From 9am to 4:30 we had workshops, with only a couple fifteen minute breaks (basically enough to roll to the restroom and pee) and one break for lunch. On top of that, we were all scheduled to be pulled out of workshop at certain times for our judging sessions.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the workshops, but WOW, they were really fantastic. I believe my first workshop was on social media and how to best use it to your and your cause's benefit. I had already been planning to start this blog before then, but this workshop really cemented my desire. It also taught me how to make a FB fan page and use that to promote the MWA/MWRI program and myself during my reign. Reign. That feels so incredibly strange to type. Perhaps I should try to pose like Elizabeth I when I'm wearing my crown.

Right! Back on topic.

Another workshop that was very memorable was Disability Heritage. This one had a big impact on me. Like many people with disabilities, I grew up in an able-bodied world.

As I child there was no one else in my family with a disability. I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy you see, and it is like losing the genetic lottery. It is a recessive gene that is carried by many people, and unless there has been someone they are aware of who has had SMA in their family, most people don't know they are even carriers. My parents? They had no clue. But that is a story I'll tell another time.

The concept of Disability Heritage--of disability PRIDE was completely foreign to me for a long time. As I have said many times to many people, disability was not something that you talked about when I was younger. I tried to ignore it, which was ultimately a waste of my time. No one else was going to ignore it. Why should I? Having a disability can be profoundly isolating. I can't count the times that I felt alone in my experiences. If you told twelve year old me, awkward with disability AND puberty that someday I would be proud to be disabled I probably would have choked on my kool-aid.

Things change. As you get older you begin to appreciate your experiences. I began to see how my struggles had made me a stronger, more empathetic person. I began to describe my struggles with pride and with humor. Now I'm PROUD of the stories I have to tell and the experiences I can share.

So seeing the history of other people who had paved the way for people with disabilities to have that freedom, to see how far we have come, was really (and this word is over-used but I can't think of a better one) empowering.

We are not just broken human beings. We are a people. We have a history, a culture. We have pride.

I left that room feeling...connected.

This was one of the images in the Disability Heritage workshop. This is a photo of members of an organization called ADAPT. People threw themselves out of their wheelchairs and began crawling up the steps, a very visible protest and call for accessibility. I admire the heck out of these folks.

1 comment:

  1. You make me laugh, you're such a good story teller. The ADAPT photo is amazing - that is a very strong way to get the message across.