On Equal Ground. (Work & Education)

Article excerpt

I arrived at the 2000 California Governor's Committee for the Employment of Disabled Persons' Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) with a mixture of eager anticipation and almost cynical wariness. Although I was excited at the prospect of meeting other teenagers with disabilities and becoming educated about disability issues of all kinds, I was also nervous. I was to be living with 52 other people with different disabilities and experiences. How would we ever work together and bond? The only thing we have in common is the same screwed up genes, but that doesn't mean we're going to get along! However, I met teenagers with whom I share many of the same interests, struggles, and similiar experiences.

I soon learned that it doesn't matter how a disability affects you or how you feel about disability culture; there is something special that happens when a group of people with disabilities gets together. I learned so much about myself, about others, and about a culture I was barely aware of: the disability culture. I almost feel like I have found a long-lost branch of my family tree, an essential part of me that no one else could understand. I laughed, basically at my own expense, and learned that it was okay.

Through videos, presentations, and discussions with our Program Assistants and mentors, I learned that what came before enables me to lead the life I lead today. I also realized that I AM accepted in the disability culture. Having a "moderate" disability, I have been prohibited from some activities because I wasn't "disabled enough!" I finally absorbed the fact that I could be a part of the "mainstream" culture while embracing the disability culture. I admitted to myself that I am proud to be a person who happens to have a disability. …