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Gearing up for the battle of... DISCRIMINATION

Discrimination—something that I, personally, have never had to deal with—until now. Before I got sick, I never felt out of place, never felt like I didn’t belong, or like I was being picked on. I’d never been apart of a large group of people, that all fall under the same classification, and then judged because of it. Once I got ill, a whole new world became known to me. This post is not about the negative world of discrimination towards those that have disabilities, but rather something to remind each and every one of you that you have a voice and change begins with you, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel or seem. Recently, after attending an event for a Christmas special that was being filmed, I was extended the opportunity to be apart of the audience. I decided to take my service dog along with me, as she is my lifeline and holds important medical equipment. Upon arriving to where the filming took place, we were directed behind the crowd to a spot where we could stand—all of those with disabilities were placed together. This was completely okay with me, until I came to the realization of what had been done; every single person who had a disability had been placed behind the camera. It was as if the company was ashamed to have people with disabilities on their show..they didn’t want us seen on camera! For a moment, and for the first time ever, I felt ashamed and devalued as a person, simply because of my disability. My illness is something that I cannot control; a hand of cards that I never wanted to be dealt. There were two of us that had chosen to participate in the film and both of us decided to speak up about being cast to the side…hidden. We spoke to production crew, employees—anyone we could find—and made our voices heard! This company had cast out an entire class of people…but why? To have a “good look” for TV? But what is that showing our younger generation? We are teaching them that it’s okay to judge someone based on their appearance, their use of medical equipment and aids; we are teaching them it’s okay to exclude people and not give them equal opportunities. For the rest of the day, and the day following, I was very frustrated about the issue and still deeply hurt…but one thing began to resonate in me as I pondered over it. I was frustrated because the situation could not be fixed quickly, as I wanted. Time can't be erased; there was no do-over. I had to look at the bigger picture, so I took a step in a direction that I never would have had the courage to before—I started to advocate for those with disabilities. I spoke up for not only myself but for everyone standing by, accepting their fate as someone with a disability. That is not right. We should not just ‘accept’ that our chances and experiences are limited because we are disabled; we should have the same rights as anyone else…let my body and I decide what we can and cannot do. While I still get choked up when talking about the situation, I can happily look back and say that I used the voice that I was given. My experience at that moment could not be fixed, but I might have paved the way towards change for the next group of people who are in a similar situation! Change only begins when you raise your voice and demand to be heard. Even when it feels as if nobody is listening, someone always is. Your voice matters. You are important. You are a warrior.

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