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My New Year Resolutions as a Disabled Advocate

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This is the first full week of the new year, and surprisingly, I have not made any resolutions at this point.  Why?  Majority of the procrastination has to do with the fact that there is SO much that I want to accomplish that I do not want to overwhelm myself mentally; a small portion is that I took my mental health Holiday break seriously, which meant that non-urgent tasks took a backseat.

For the first post of 2015 on the RYV! blog, I wanted to share my resolutions (in no particular order) as a disabled advocate:

Continue to Connect with Other Disabled Advocates

The greatest highlight of 2014 was meeting and befriending several disabled advocates online, and through personal contacts.  Sharing stories with those who understood my plight validated my experiences and challenges as a disabled person.

This year, I am making it a high priority to connect with more disabled advocates, especially more disabled women of color.  These connections are ones that I treasure dearly; disabled women have a unique sisterhood bond that defies all barriers.  Being encouraged and uplifted by my disabled sisters is vital to my well-being; without their support, I could not do this work effectively.

Conduct More Presentations as an Advocate, and Within the RYV! Brand

Putting my name and face, and the RYV! brand, out there publicly is essential for growth to occur.  I plan to submit to more calls for proposals, and connect with organizations that allow speakers to share their expertise and life experiences.  One thing I aim to do is connect with more disability-focused groups, especially peer-led ones.  Though my specific disability may not be the dominant condition of those within that particular group, we all share similar battles and scars (both visible and invisible) as members of the largest minority group in America.  Even if I cannot make it there physically due to location, I now have the capability to videochat with the new technology I was awarded through a grant mid-November.  Obtaining this new technology will open many doors for me when it comes to presenting, whether I am doing so virtually or in-person.

Dig Deeper into Political Advocacy

Being someone who has public service/political aspirations, educating local, state, and federal representatives about the issues that matter to those with disabilities is also high on my to-do list.  I am not shy about letting those in office know the disabled agenda, and from the passage of key federal legislation such as the ABLE Act last month, politicians are becoming more informed as to how they can use their power and position to improve our lives.  If we want disabled issues and rights to be on their minds, we have to find ways to force them to hear our voices; being meek and invisible CANNOT happen in 2015.

Expand My Social Media Presence as an Advocate

I was very happy with the first full year of social media presence for RYV!, but now it is time to step it up a notch on certain networks.  One network in particular where I want to improve both RYV!’s & my own presence is Twitter.  The disabled community is on Twitter very heavy, and I need to make the time to connect with other advocates, allies, and organizations more.  I have done an incredible job of doing this when it comes to Tumblr; now is the prime time to do the same for Twitter.  I have brought on a new graphic design intern, and she will be responsible for creating eye-catching images that I can share online; her creativity will be crucial in my plans of increasing social media visibility and connections.

Engage in Community Events to Raise Consciousness About the Plight of Those with Disabilities

In my hometown and surrounding areas, there are several events held each year that would allow me to network and bring attention to the work that I have undertaken.  It is dire for me to be present at such outings; there are great chances that the individuals attending could benefit from know about RYV! and my professional agenda.  I can no longer afford to not tap into and be a part of such key community resources.  Most of these events will take place when the weather warms up, so I will have time to research, strategize, and plan what events deserve to be on my radar.

Final Thoughts

The start of the new year is exhilarating; it allows all of us to brainstorm ways we can become better than we are in area(s) we want to improve in.  For me, most of my goals center around my professional career, from RYV! to applying to law school, and writing my books.  Making baby steps in these areas of my life is imperative because there is so much that has to be done, and now is the opportune time to get the wheels turning (pun intended).  My determination to bring both my professional and company brands further has me fired up!

I hope that each of you are fired up and ready to take charge in whatever you want to do in the new year.  We CAN and WILL succeed – let’s go make it happen, advocates and allies!

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Happy New Year Images 2015.)

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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