I volunteer for disability-related organizations because advocacy is important to me. I would not be where I am today without the help of advocates.
When I was a child, I saw my mom stand up for me so many times when there were issues regarding accessibility or being treated fairly. I always saw my mom go out of her way to connect with other parents who had a child with SMA, and I particularly remember my parents always begging me to become pen pals with other kids. Although I witnessed all of this, it wasn't until I turned 18 that I realized I needed to start advocating for myself and connecting with others who have a disability, like me.
If no one stands up for me, I feel like I could fall apart from the frequent circumstances of inequality and negativity I face. For example, someone can talk to me with an unkind tone if I let them, or they can dismiss me as ineligible to squeeze into the school elevator unless I speak up. I can also miss out on opportunities that will help me in the long run, such as physical therapy, which would cause me to lose mobility function if I do not seek the help I need. There can be financial, physical, and certainly emotional categories of mistreatment I can likely endure if I do not advocate for myself. Even worse, I can endure all of these in vain because I did not do a thing about it to help the next disabled person avoid the unique or common situation.
“The power of community is grand because it can impact a wider scale of change than I can do by myself.”
With music and coding as my focus, I come across chances to improve accessibility and inclusion in mostly those realms. Community encompasses various focuses, and I always want to be a part of that.
I have volunteered for decades by fundraising, cold calling for events, writing original music, and performing pro bono. I have recorded audiobooks for the blind and those who benefit from audiobooks. I have volunteered with disabled children, presenting motivational speeches at schools (from elementary to higher education), and at hospitals, businesses, nonprofits, and government organizations. Most recently, I have fought for disability inclusion in the music industry. There are many opportunities to build your community through volunteering and so many ways to help.
I took on leadership roles in an effort to make changes throughout New York City, and I am thankful to know that they have paved the way for more advocacy via the community.
Although it seems simple, each of the above moments is meaningful. I balance difficulties with the knowledge that when I advocate for myself, I am also advocating for others as well. I have learned always to do my best and give as much as I can of myself because I believe my efforts will make a difference.