Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Why do you do this?"

A friend asked me this question recently when I told him about my plans to start a disability rights  awareness workshop and my involvement with the program for children with cerebral palsy. He assured me that with my qualifications I could be a business lawyer or a skilled litigator and was puzzled that I don't want to have a career where my disability wouldn't matter. Well, I'm very much aware of my skills and education and all the other things I would be able to do. I don't do it because I have to. I do it because I want to and because it needs to be done. But I understand when he is coming from. When I was a child I saw a lot of people in wheelchairs getting involved in disability causes and careers and I thought they were limiting themselves. Truth be told many of them allowed the accessibility of buildings in Warsaw dictate their career choices. When I first applied to Warsaw University's faculty of law I was 19 and one of the first things I've heard was how awful was the experience going to be for a person in a wheelchair, from the Disability Affairs office of all places. Perhaps I should consider English or linguistics or whatever other major has better ramps.  Right there I vowed to be whatever attorney I choose to be. My disability won't determine this, I will not by limited by my physicality. And I think I kept my promise. This is what I choose. It's not all I'm qualified to do, but I have a lot of positive energy in me, I want to make an impact and I want to help people.

I'm not ashamed that I have a disability. I'm comfortable talking about it. Yes I know that's not all I am. And yes, I do believe that there is some deeper truth when you speak from experience. Litigation is often about standing the right way, walking up the right way, turning for effect, finding the right spot. I can be more effective doing this, because when I talk about this people usually listen. Nobody else is doing it in Florida and somebody has to. To me a great career is about the lives you touch and how you feel at the end of the day. I want to bring more awareness, because one day we all may wake up in a better environment all  together. Why should I run from something I accepted about myself years ago?

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