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The Most Memorable Moments Of My Life

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Watching last night’s episode of “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC caused me to think about the most memorable moments of my life.  The stars from last night’s episode had to dance to a song that epitomize the experience(s) they had during a specific time in their lives that changed the way they viewed themselves, their relationships, and the world around them.  Watching the deep reflections & epiphanies of celebrities like Christina Milian, Amber Riley, Elizabeth Berkley, Jack Osborne made me recount the most memorable moments in my own life.

I’ve had many memorable moments in my 28 years on this planet, and most of them revolved around the milestones I conquered as a person with a disability.  The first memorable moment I’ve had was when I walked for the first time at the age of 10 years old.  I had the rodding surgery that would make it possible for me to withstand weight on my legs the summer before I was to begin the fourth grade.  I remember having two big pink casts on my legs, and wondering what was ahead of me once my legs healed from the surgery.  Once the casts were off, I would begin physical therapy.  I was quite scared because walking was new territory for me, and I wasn’t sure if I would truly like it better than rolling around on four wheels.  The physical therapists I had during that time assisted me in becoming comfortable with wearing leg braces and using a walker.  I remember the moment when I took my first steps – it was freeing.  I felt like I finally knew what it was like to walk on both legs, even though I had to use assistive devices to do so.  Though I still rely on a wheelchair as my main mode of “transportation,” being able to have the ability to walk has greatly impacted my independence as a person with OI.  I’m able to transfer myself without (much) assistance, walk small distances if I am able to hold onto something sturdy for balance, and to move about in ways that fit who I am.  None of my newfound mobility movements would’ve be possible if I hadn’t had the rodding surgery and years of physical therapy growing up as a child with a disability.  I know that being able to walk, no matter how good or wobbly :), is something I do not (and most importantly, should not) take for granted.

As an adult, I know that the educational achievements I acquired are incredible milestones as a person with a disability.  People with disabilities make up 13.9% of those over the age of 25 with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.  25.8% of people with disabilities who are 25 years of age and older have less than a high school diploma.  Those statistics are quite disturbing, and it makes me understand how fortunate I am to have obtained the amount of education I currently have.  I know that not every person with a disability who is capable of graduating high school or going to college have the support or resources to do so.  I know that I would not have accomplish this much without growing up in a family that valued education, attending a school district that ensured that I had the accommodations I was entitled to by law, and be a college student at a higher learning institution that made it a priority to be open to students of all abilities and walks of life.  Having such strong foundations growing up should not be the exception; it should be the norm for people of all abilities.  Education and empowerment are the cornerstones of Ramp Your Voice!, and I am very determined to help other people with disabilities empower themselves by receiving a quality education so that they can become movers, shakers, and innovators in our society.

Though being able to walk and having the chance to be educated are indeed memorable to me, the most memorable moment in my life, however, was when I started Ramp Your Voice! this summer.  I feel that I am living out my purpose with the work I am hoping to achieve through Ramp Your Voice.  For the first time in my life, I believe that I am “owning” my life’s path; I am no longer “rolling” around aimlessly, trying to figure out what I am suppose to be doing.  Creating this platform has been such a tremendous learning experience for me as a person with a disability, a woman of color, and as a helping professional.  I know that my voice matters, and it can provide support to those in need, and to the disability rights movement as well.  Advocating for basic human rights and the dignity of others is every person’s responsibility; Ramp Your Voice! allows me to fulfill my obligation in those efforts.

On last night’s episode of “Dancing with the Stars,” each contestant chose a song that captured the meaning of their most memorable year of their life.  The song that describes what I’ve been through in my life is “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera.  “Fighter” epitomizes my ability to not let my disability or other life circumstances keep me from living my life, and being the best person I can be.

Fellow Rampers:  Tell me your most memorable moment(s) in your life.  If you’re a person with a disability, what defining milestone(s) did you conquer that you never thought you could?  What theme song defines your resilience against obstacles & tribulations?  I’m eager to hear your responses; comment under this post, or send your response to me via email:  Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com.

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Pixabay.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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