Friday, August 24, 2012

Disability Advocacy Seminar

I made it yesterday to a local disability advocacy seminar, I do think they had many good things to share, some was about the nuts and bolts of advocacy and what works out there in disability advocacy land. I think it is good to look at one's community and ask what would be somethings that can be done to bring the disabled together in help and support and in protecting them?  One good thing about the community here is they do have a local disability support organization where I have met the director a few times. I do have multiple disabilites, most of which are mentioned on this blog, but I must not only adapt to living as a very supersized woman but also must deal with severe hearing impairment.

More work definitely needs to be done on integrating those with physical and mental disabilities into their respective communities. One of the advocates talked about a wheelchair bound man who was forced to crawl up the stairs to get into a courthouse as required by a malicious judge, and that ensuing lawsuit changed many things. I feel for those who are wheelchair bound in that, even being unable to do more then a few stairs, my bad balance affects this too, I have found myself barred from many local activities, including an improv my husband invited me too. We even drove to the older building to see if I could get in there and when I saw the steep wide stairs, I knew I would not be able to go up them safely.  My husband understands, he has had years of dealing with with what I face. Many things had to be changed to help the wheelchair bound and other mobility impaired to have access and there is STILL a LONG WAY TO GO. 

They talked about persistence counting when it came to advocacy work. I had written a local discount grocer asking if they would get a scooter, and realized while I did not get a response back, realize I need to stay persistent and not give up. Even advocating for myself to get a hearing aid, took me over a year. "Don't give up" should be the disabled person's mantra. They talked about the best way to couch things to people. I know on my blog, I do get a bit outspoken here, and I probably do have some unpopular opinions but in life, I've had success influencing people to see where I am coming from. The advocate, said, try and understand where they are coming from. I know one barrier to disability changes, is cold hard CASH. Many small business owners and others, probably even would like to make changes, but may not always be able to afford these things. Here too, barriers in employment were discussed.

I told the group I am NOT healthy enough to attempt work now, especially with my breathing difficulties and COPD, but talked about my own sojourns in Vocational Rehab and even attempting to change my career from teaching to being a paralegal where I got too sick to continue. One huge issue for many participants was feeling cut out of the work place and feeling that employers were not giving them fair shakes. While there is some realism to be faced, such as blindness or even deafness affecting jobs [I can't hear perfectly even with a hearing aid], this is something disabled people are facing. The workworld is tough now even on those who are older or who face minor health problems. The advocates did emphasize a person selling themselves on skills and making sure not to make the disability the central focus at a job interview.

There was discussion of invisible disabilities [I have some of those] and trying to get to a better place of functioning and finding mutual support in the disability community. One advocate discussed the different personalities using the DISC personality grid, and the difference between being non-assertive, aggressive and the more positive assertive. All interesting to things to hear about. That is definitely one thing, that people do have to learn to be assertive especially in this world if you face disabilities and hardships, getting people on your team is important. There were members of my local self help and depression group there, too who came to support and talk about those who face mental disabilities and advocate for them.

Overall it was a very positive experience, and I am interested in getting more involved in my community as much as my health allows in helping disabled people as well as myself and others I care about. I did tell them I have a special interest in helping people of size especially those who face supersized obesity.

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