First of all, let me make a quick intro of myself, I am a 43-year-old man who was born with cerebral palsy. My conditions include that I’m spastic, causing me to not be able to do a lot of fine motor skills, such as write or feed myself. I use both a walker and wheelchairs – both manual and electric – out in public. Whenever I’m at home, I can walk on my knees to get around the house. However, my biggest obstacle is that I have a severe speech problem. In 1997 at the age of 24, I received my first communication device. Thanks to that, I am able to hold down a job.
I am dedicating this first article to George Pleasant, in memory of him, because we were priesthood members at our church, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. George was the very first person, among other men within the priesthood, who gave me a break using my communicator to talk in public, as he was made aware I should be a deacon at our church. I started talking, giving sermons in the fall of 1998.
Other speaking engagements just came to me within these past 18 years, but the very first break was becoming a deacon within my church, giving sermons and saying prayers when I was scheduled to be up front.
It was from that start that I went ahead and did numerous of things, such as getting my bachelor’s degree in social sciences at Shawnee State University. After graduating in 2004, I found my calling in being a self advocate when in 2005 I found People First of Ohio, a self advocacy organization for people who have disabilities. It is something that I am passionate about – helping people – trying to improve their lives for the better in different ways, such as making sure that sidewalks have wheelchair ramps on them and it is suitable for wheelchairs to get on sidewalks with ease. These are things people take for granted; but, if one is confined to a wheelchair, you notice some curbside accesses are not really wheelchair friendly.
With this column I am hoping to shed some light on issues that are so near and dear to me. Some may be serious, some may be humorous, but it’s going to be an eye-opening experience from someone who sees the world in a different way. I am so honored to be writing this, and hopefully I can change some people’s perception on how they view people that have a disability.
So, buckle up, because this will be exciting and unique.
(Bill Adams is the Self Advocacy Specialist at STAR, Inc., in Portsmouth. For more info on STAR or the Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities, check out the SCBDD Facebook page or website at http://www.SciotoCountyDD.org. For more info on People First of Ohio, visit http://www.PeopleFirstOhio.org.)