Ms. Wheelchair America 2016
When I was born, the message was clearly conveyed that as a person with a disability I would be less than. The assumption was that I would not be a contributing member of our society and I surely would not be capable of raising a child. This mentality existed in 1971 and for over 56 million people in America who live with a disability these beliefs continue to impact our day-to-day lives. Ignorance continues to be the greatest obstacle facing those with disabilities. 75% of people with disabilities are unemployed and 80% live below poverty. This is unacceptable when we live in a nation that prides itself on life, liberty, and freedom. An inability to successfully access housing, education, and healthcare are pivotal issues faced by the disability community. Along with these basic needs is the reality that people with disabilities are penalized and lose services when they marry. 80% of people with disabilities encounter discrimination, oppression, and ignorance when becoming parents.
On August 1, 2015, I became your Ms. Wheelchair America 2016. As a national spokes person, I am eager to serve the community and provide mentorship for successful living with a disability across the nation. My platform, PRIDE: Parental Rights Include Disability Equality, focuses on transforming social response, advancing public policy, and strengthening community resources for parents with disabilities. During the national competition I emphasized that parental rights in the disability community is an urgent issue. I am pleased to announce that the federal government agrees with me. This week the Department of Justice and the US Health and Human Services announced new federal guidelines to protect parents and perspective parents with disabilities from discrimination. Specifically they call for increased awareness and education across state agencies to ensure that parents and prospective parents with disabilities have “equal access to parenting opportunities without encountering artificial barriers posed by longstanding discriminatory practices”.
Being a leader, educator, and mentor drives my goal of eliminating the barriers that exist for parents and perspective parents across the nation. As a mother with cerebral palsy who holds a doctorate in psychology I am able to speak to a variety of audiences by combining my personal experience with research data and evidence based practices to facilitate change across systems of care and promote inclusion across communities. I want to be able to provide workshops, deliver public addresses, increase media images, and mentor parents and perspective parents with disabilities across the nation in order to reduce ignorance and eradicate discrimination.
I need your assistance to achieve my goal as Ms. Wheelchair America 2016. Help me bring the message to local, state, and national communities that people with disabilities are successful in education, employment, and as parents.
For more information please visit www.mwa2016.com
Listening to people's experiences about trying to access employment, housing, parenting resources, equipment, transportation, and so much more makes me realize how much education is still needed in each of our communities. Over 25 years ago, the late Senator Ted Kennedy said, "The Americans with Disabilities Act will end the American apartheid. The act has the potential to become one of the great civil rights laws of our generation. Disabled citizens deserve the opportunity to work for a living, ride a bus, have access to public and commercial buildings, and do all the other things that the rest of us take for granted. Mindless physical barriers and outdated social attitudes have made them second class citizens for too long. This legislation is a bill of rights for the disabled, and America will be a better and fairer nation because of it. "
While disability rights are recognized through the ADA they are currently in jeopardy again of being taken away. Throughout all 50 states, funding for community programs that allow for people with disabilities to achieve independence are being cut. Currently, the government has authorized Medicare to stop funding the purchase of vital wheelchair accessories that are needed for people with disabilities to maintain their health and independence. I am actively working with multiple disability organizations to reverse this legislation and call for our government to protect the independence and civil rights of people with disabilities.
My goal continues to be to speak in all 50 states by next August. You can help me reach this goal by sharing connections in your community, inviting me to speak at your child's school or your place of employment, and spreading the word about Ms. Wheelchair America and disability advocacy. Let's work together and create disability awareness events in each of your communities. It's time to act and show the world that disability is an Ability.
I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for all of your support for the Ms. Wheelchair America 2016 campaign. I am grateful to each one of the 27 donors thus far! With your support, I will be able to present to the national CP Organization in October and complete advocacy and mentorship work in Tennessee, Ohio, New York, and Mississippi this year.
Many hugs and so much love to all of you for helping me achieve my goals as Ms. Wheelchair America 2016! With your support, I am confident I can achieve the goal of reaching out to all 50 states!
All the best,