Just being myself
By Traci A. Taylor
The Independent Living Center of Eastern Indiana
People say “Just be yourself”; well what in the world does that really mean? Who am I? I am a woman, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am an aunt, I am a friend, I am an employee, I am a person with a disability. I am a 43-year-old California native and the Director of Independent Living Services for the Independent Living Center of Eastern Indiana. Who I am is based on who I have been in the past and will shape who I hope to become in the future.
Just being myself means playing with my dog, it means enjoying the company of my friends and family both during outings and just relaxing at home.
Just being myself means being daring, having to always do better than my able-bodied peers to prove that I can do it, and living in a world that is not made for me. I am proud to be a peer advocate and to have the opportunity to be a voice for those who do not have the chance to speak on their own behalf.
I am excited to be a part of this year’s Disability Awareness Campaign with the Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. You can get involved with the Council’s mission and their Disability Awareness Campaign too! Check out their website at www. indianadisabilityawareness.org for more information and for resources, including a free planning kit to help plan your own Disability Awareness Month activity. Be cool and share the campaign video via your social channels–#becoolweare. The mission of the Governor’s Council—to advance the independence, productivity and inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society—is incredibly important because people with disabilities are a meaningful part of society.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
- People with disabilities are, first and foremost, people. Respect them by talking to them just like you would anyone else.
- Unless someone asks you otherwise, stick to “person with a disability” instead of “a disabled person.” Emphasize the person, not the disability.
- Ask if you can help someone before just doing it. Assuming someone can’t do something is rude.
- Disability is a natural part of life; people with disabilities are living with them, not suffering from them.
- If you have a question go ahead and ask. People with disabilities would rather talk with you and answer your questions than be an object of a long unwavering stare.
- When speaking to a person who is utilizing an interpreter always direct your comments to the person with a disability and not to the interpreter.
- When a person with a disability is with others do not assume that the others will speak on behalf of the person with a disability. People with disabilities have their own preferences, ideas and desires; respect them just as you would their able bodied peers.
Next time you are interacting with a person with a disability just be yourself, be cool, because we are!