Having a disability has never defined me, but it has shaped my daily life experiences. I am reliant on others for assistance and I work twice as hard as able-bodied individuals. I am proud to share my struggles as someone who has Spastic Quadriplegia and Cerebral Palsy.
When I was seven months old, my mom was told that I would not be able to walk. As a toddler, it wasn’t too difficult to get around because my family pushed me in my stroller. When I was 10 years old, I received my first wheelchair. I was happy to be out of the stroller and finally in my own wheelchair, however, it was difficult to get around because at that time, many places were not handicapped accessible. Many times, I had to wait in the car with a family member when we went to places that had a lot of steps and no elevator. These types of barriers prevented me and our family from activities that we wanted to do together. Up until the 7th grade, I had to use a manual wheelchair. I relied on family members or my aide in school to take me to where I wanted to go. My family had requested a powerchair for many years, The request took a very long time due to the challenges of the approval process.
The time came to become a North Rockland High School student. I was glad to have mastered my wheelchair before entering this new chapter for me. Going to North Rockland High school had its challenges because there was only one other student in a wheelchair besides me. A lot of people viewed me as different. They were not used to interacting with someone in a wheelchair. Although I had friends, it took awhile for students to get used to talking to me and realizing how great I am. My favorite part of the school day was being able to talk to my friends at the lunch table. We spent hours talking about sports and where we wanted to go to college. Although I do not see or speak to my high school friends as much anymore, I still cherish our friendships that were created at North Rockland.
It has been difficult for me to see my friends moving on with their lives and go off to college. I knew I wanted more for myself. I graduated from North Rockland High School in 2015. In 2018, I made a decision to move out of my mom’s house and give myself more independence.
The good part of being out by myself is that I am happy when some people see that I may need help opening a door that may be broken or if the handicapped button isn’t working at the mall. At times, these situations makes me feel good and bad because they are strangers and I always hope that nothing bad will happen. However, going to the mall is important to me because it gives me an opportunity to get out of the house and spend time alone. Spending time alone is very important to me. Sometimes I feel stressed out with all of the homework I have. Very simply, I can do what I want. Going out into the community, gives me a chance to meet new people and get together with my friends.
I am proud of my accomplishments and the many goals I have set for myself including going to school, getting a seasonal job for the holidays and currently searching for a new job. I enjoy work. I have worked two seasonal holidays for the Salvation Army which was great for me to meet and greet people as a bell ringer at the Palisades Mall. I enjoyed collecting donations for families who couldn’t afford holiday gifts. Working with the Salvation Army has taught me to help other people in need because they may be struggling with their own life situations.
As you can read, I have had a lot of great experiences so far in my life. I am proud that I finished high school and that I challenged myself at Rockland Community College. I am thankful I had an opportunity to move into Salmon and for all the new people I have met in the past few years. I am very optimistic about my future and what it has in store for me. One day, I would also like to have my own apartment to further the independence I have now. I know I must work to increase my skills to live by myself, but I am hopeful that with all of my hard work, I will accomplish whatever I set my mind to. Who knows, maybe one day I will be able to get my own car and go wherever I want.