Celebrating Disability Pride Month provides opportunity to remove the stigma around living with a disability. By celebrating Disability Pride Month, we all can better understand the experiences of those living with a disability and ensure people with disabilities are included as meaningful participants in our communities. UI Health is proud to join in this year’s celebration by featuring employee spotlights sharing their lived-experience and how they honor this month.
What is something you would like people to know about how to contribute to your experience of belonging? Don’t assume people with disabilities cannot do something, there are often simple solutions to promote true inclusivity and belonging. Disability can be an uncomfortable topic to navigate. Oftentimes people who do not have a disability may be well-intentioned. However, if you are unsure of something it is wise to simply ask the individual with a disability what they prefer in instances that may arise.
Is there an assumption people often make about you, based on your disability, that you love to dispel? At times, people make assumptions about what individuals with physical disabilities can and cannot do. I’ve also personally experienced people openly display pity and sadness regarding my lived reality, which ultimately serves to diminish disability identity and self-worth. In doing so, people dismiss disability as another way of being and an experience to be proud of in terms of adding diversity to the human experience. These assumptions are not helpful and can serve to exclude people with disabilities from making meaningful contributions to various endeavors.
What hopes or wishes do you have for UI Health as it implements further diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives? I am excited to see forthcoming initiatives that will serve to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for all under-represented and under-served minority populations. Disability is often a forgotten minority population that can be overlooked at times. As such, I am also eager to see the utilization and dissemination of resources related to disability through DEI initiatives at UI Health.
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is a preeminent institution in terms of disability. UIC College of Applied Health Sciences – Department on Disability and Human Development has several experts in their respective fields. The enterprise also has a disability cultural center, disability resource center and Great Lakes ADA Center. As an academic medical center, UI Health is well-positioned to benefit from the plethora of resources available.
What does your identity as someone living with a disability mean to you? Living as a person with a disability has changed my entire perspective on life. It has diversified my understanding of the human experience and allowed me to generate alternate viewpoints on common issues. I’ve experienced adversity throughout my journey with disability and have learned how to persevere in some very difficult situations. Throughout it all, I’ve learned a lot about myself and others.
Has there been a figure in your life – famous or not – that served as an inspiration to you and why? Franklin D. Roosevelt- He set ambitious goals and achieved them, even in the face of obstacles life threw his way. People with disabilities were often sent to asylums during this period in our history, yet he traversed society and life with polio, and ultimately became President of the United States of America. He maintained a cheerful demeanor and led the country through some of the most difficult times (Great Depression, World War II) and remained a staunch advocate for people with disabilities.
Is there an assumption people often make about you, based on your disability, that you love to dispel? Actually, the assumption is usually that I don’t have a disability because it’s not visible – it’s something you can’t see. Sometimes that can be a challenge because I do things differently and people don’t always understand why.
What does your identity as someone living with a disability mean to you? My vision impairment doesn’t define me, I just see it as a small piece of who I am. In many ways, I see it as a strength. When treating patients with disabilities, I think it actually helps me care for them in a unique and individualized way since I can understand where they are coming from.
What is something you would like people to know about how to contribute to your experience of belonging? If someone on your team has a disability, don’t be afraid to lend a helping hand. People are often worried they might offend you by bringing it up…don’t be! My friends will wildly wave their arms in a crowd to help me find them, read restaurant menus out loud like a book, and so much more. I could say the same for my teammates here at UI Health. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate their help anticipating things I could use a hand with and not tiptoeing around the obvious. We even like to crack a light-hearted joke about it every now and then, which honestly might be the thing that makes me feel loved and embraced by them the most.
Has there been a figure in your life -famous or not – that served as an inspiration to you and why? Yes, that would be my older brother! Our eye condition is genetic. My brother, twin sister and I all have it. Growing up, he was my hero. He excelled at almost anything he tried and didn’t let the disability phase him one bit. He paved the way and showed my sister and I that we could do anything we wanted to, regardless of our eyesight. We turned out great if I do say so myself.
What do you love about your job/ the work you do? I love that I get to go to work every day and help people live more pain-free, active, and fulfilling lives. Helping someone realize their potential and make positive changes in their life is a pretty cool gig if you ask me.