I enjoy my life on a regular basis but sometimes going to places such as the speak up and speak out conference makes me feel reenergized and ready to take on any struggle that comes my way. From the minute I walked into the conference, I felt at ease despite the fact the night before we had trouble getting our rooms and getting the right accommodations I needed at a different hotel. All of that disappeared when I came to this conference. All the people were excited to share what they had to offer and have a good time. There were vendors there that had equipment to make peoples lives with disabilities that much easier. Motivational books and people laughing and smiling it was the greatest energy in the world. I knew right then and there that I had made the right decision to come and represent the IAMC Illinois Association of Microboards and Cooperatives and represent myself. As a person with a disability I knew that just like camp and my dance workshop, I wouldn’t be judged there or looked at differently. For example there was a dance at the end of the conference and I was debating weather or not to take my shoes off because my feet were really hurting me due to the fact that I was really excited, and then I thought this is the last place I’m going to be judged, put a smile on my face, took off my shoes, and kept spinning. People were just excited that I was there to stand up and speak out.
Throughout the next few days I not only enjoyed myself but I got to learn a lot about advocacy and what I want to do in the future. It motivated me to continue doing what I am doing in school and helping others while keeping in mind what I have to do to stay strong as a person with challenges. It reminded me never to give up and thanks to this conference.
I was able to get a real handle on what an amazing legacy Lester Prichard left on not only the disabled community, but also the world. It was unfortunate that I never got to meet him because I think he would have made a big impact on my life but just hearing about his legacy and what an impact he made on other peoples lives made me stronger and made me proud to be at the conference. Luckily however I was able to meet and take a picture with his wife Barbara and she told me, “In a way Lester did meet you because he saw you on the Life My Way website.” Just like Lester, Barbara was and is an amazing person and it was an honor to meet her. We need more people in the world like Lester and his wife with positive attitudes that say we can do anything we set our minds to and Barbara even said “despite Lester’s death we can’t give up the fight for equality.” To find out more about Lester, go to my previous blog.
Besides meeting Barbara I was also able to strengthen my friendship with Paula Vanier. She is another self-advocate who I briefly met before at a meeting for people who have cooperatives in the state. Getting to spend this quality time with a person who is older than me with a disability made me feel inspired and energized along with everything else I did at the workshop from hearing someone speak who wrote his own book despite having down syndrome hearing someone speak with cerebral palsy who is married and just plain dancing with friends. I learned that sometimes the smallest things could make you the most empowered. Remember to speak up and speak out. Happy Thanksgiving to you all I feel so blessed have you in my life.