Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking on a “virtual panel” as a mentor for a camp that I attended during high school years ago. This camp is called MO-YLF, Missouri Youth Leadership Forum. One of the questions I was asked is “Which advice stood out to you that a mentor or anyone you looked up to gave you while you were transitioning out of high school?”
My answer was a very easy one for me. “There is no right path to your future, but as long as you follow your intuition, your gut, your passion, you will end up where you are supposed to be.”
The youth I was speaking to were 16 – 21 years old and of course, it is an imperative time to set the course to your future. I remember being at that age and NOT HAVING A CLUE about anything regarding to adulthood.
Little did I know that camp would change the course of my life because of this one person I met there. Before I knew it, I was heading off to an entirely different state, a different college I knew very little about, and creating a whole new identity.
Instead of sticking with my plan of attending the University of Missouri with an accounting degree, I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s in Marketing. Instead of having a future in mainstream America, I developed a deaf identity that’s in tune with my mainstream upbringing and added a new language - American Sign Language.
This is not what I had imagined when I was their age. The impact that this gentleman I met from MO-YLF was monumental for me.
Which brings me to my point about the power of advocacy and accessibility. Those two go hand-in-hand when it comes to the disability community in gaining a semblance of independence.
When I gave my answer to the youth, I pointed out the cold, hard truth that it is on us and only us to advocate for ourselves, and the rest will fall into place. Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities. Advocacy empowers a person to have a voice.
As I gain my footing in the field of accessibility as a new Information Specialist for the RMADAC, I absolutely cannot wait to become part of the community that will ensure that the disability community’s voices will be heard.
My only hope is that my advice that I passed on to the youth will also be passed on to the next generation and so forth. Never stop advocating and the world will be yours.