It is great to know the experiences you may have with your disability are not unique. A community is a group of people with shared experiences. I will start by saying I am a professional with Cerebral Palsy and I have many friends, colleagues and people I respect who have disabilities. We sometimes give each other help and advice that makes life easier. Sometimes this includes ways to advocate. I identify as disable and my community includes people with visible and invisible disabilities and people without disabilities who choose to be allies, people without disabilities who choose to help those with disabilities. You can be in the disability community if you choose to identify.
Identifying as having a physical disability opened doors to adaptive sports for me. When a friend, Piotr, was interning at MDRC he encouraged several staff members to participate in the Victory Games, a sports event for people with physical disabilities. Some people use the event as a step towards the Para-Olympics because of its affiliation. From months of training for the Victory Games a group of us from the team bonded and Piotr, who now works as part of the sports science department at MSU, developed the MSU adaptive sports club. This group is for MSU students and people 18 years of age and older who have physical disabilities. There are many fun ways to be active in the disabled community. The experience with adaptive sports has strengthened my identity as a part of the disabled community.
Our community has a great culture with a long history that includes leaders and advocates like Justin Dart, Ed Roberts and others who helped fight for what we have today. What these people did best was bring the community together with the vision of inclusion. The Centers for Independent Living and the rights giving through the Americans with Disability Act came through working as a community. Like the Jedi from Star Wars describe community is like the force, it gives us strength binds us together and makes us one. Many good things come from identifying with the disabled community. Like knowing when an issue isn’t new or having a hero with a similar disability. You may get knowledge through the oral traditions from friends or books. Just know you are not alone in a community. So take the time and explore our culture, learn about our history, and get involved.
F. Paul Miller
Community Inclusion Specialist
Michigan Disability Rights Coalition