As many of you know, I work with the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council on some Self-Advocacy projects geared toward assisting persons with Developmental and/or Intellectual Challenges the opportunity to make their voices matter. In fact, our tagline is MY VOICE MATTERS!
Below is the latest article written by Laura Minutello. Laura is FLSAA’s (Florida Self-Advocacy Alliance’s) newest Journalist. She was hand picked during an application process that included a majority of panelists who are also Self-Advocates and are members of FL SAND and FLSAA (Florida Self-Advocates Network’D). These two organizations are moving mountains in the Self-Advocacy field and I am so proud to be part of this project! Take a looksie at this writing talent and let me know what you think! Commenting to this blog helps us further the exposure, and we want to hear your thoughts, everyone’s voice matters!
-Grace Alfiero, President & CEO of Arts In Action, Project Director for FL SAND
The Most Powerful Story You Will Ever Tell: Thoughts on Life, Advocacy and Finding a Voice
-Laura Minutello, FLSAA News Correspondent, March 2015
Without a doubt, I am and always have been a lover of words. Whether spoken or written, I believe that they have a unique and immense power. A power that can be utilized in a variety of ways to either unite or divide individuals. To create human connection, or to break it. To promote or prevent understanding. All of these things (and more) are within the power of our words.
On a personal level, my self-proclaimed appreciation for the power of words may be more than a bit ironic, considering the years I spent not using them. You see, for a large portion of my life, I truly thought that I had nothing to say. So, I said as little as I could manage. Preferring to keep my interactions, even with those closest to me, as short as possible. I was introverted to the extreme, and that is putting it mildly. Even when I (rarely) broke my silence and attempted to contribute to the world around me, I wholeheartedly believed the lie that this wheelchair I sit in rendered those thoughts useless, or at least less worthwhile than the thoughts of others.
Here’s the thing though: I was wrong. Terribly so. My contribution to the world is not only important, it is a vital piece of the puzzle, one that only I have. And, the same thing can be said of every other human who has or ever will walk this planet. We all have something to contribute; whether with words or otherwise, everybody has a story and something to teach humanity. Disability, nor any other life circumstance, can ever negate that.
From an advocacy perspective, I think that is the very reason why Self-Advocacy is so crucial. After all, who can provide society with a more complete picture of both the challenges and triumphs that accompany life with a disability than those of us experiencing it daily?
Truly, there is no way to fully understand any given situation unless you have lived it. That noted, there is a lot to be said for the power of our individual narratives. And more importantly, for being open enough to listen and learn from the experiences of others.
With that in mind, my encouragement to not only myself and fellow advocates but all, would be this:
Never underestimate the power and worthiness of your voice, or the ability that you possess to make a real and tangible difference in this world. Furthermore, never doubt anyone else’s capability to do so either.
Instead, let us all continually endeavor to invite one another into our respective worlds, challenges and all, in the best way we know how.
For some of us, that world includes disability, for others, life’s hurdles may be things less visible. Some communicate with words, others with none at all. Yet, I think one of the greatest things about humanity is that it is our differences, even and perhaps especially those that we would see as our own disadvantages, that are oftentimes the very attributes with which we can most positively affect the world around us.