The first thing you may notice if you saw me on the street; my wheelchair. Crippled, confined, and dependent—common adjectives to identify who I am—before I even say a word. As members of a community, we instinctually seek to help others in need. I have learned that sometimes help is found in unexpected places. Fortunately, my community is largely willing to advocate for my unique accommodations. The advocacy I was privileged to receive transformed my ambitions into an appetite for public service. I aspired to be a demonstration that all of us are capable of offering a brick in the foundation our community. Our hypothetical individual who labeled those common adjectives would be surprised to know I am an advocate. Perhaps the realization would inspire a call to action for themselves. People may surprise you.
Disability awareness is somewhat ironic to me. I’m a central valley native and this is my home. Out in public however, I sometimes feel like a visitor. A spotlight is cast on me everywhere I go. I am very aware of my disability and so is the public. If anything, my wish is to be treated as an ordinary person. I am not special, nor unique. I am just a guy. I read books, watch T.V., go out with friends; all of it. I attended college and achieved a certification to become a paralegal. I worked for my local police department and eventually moved to the Tulare County courthouse. I was fortunate to intern under our public defender’s office.
Like you, I have my own hobbies. I am fascinated in biology and medical science. I run a small home-lab where I explore microbiology through a microscope and carry-out amateur experiments. I read about Physiology and discover more about life. After all, life is a privilege. I inherited my curiosity from my father. My father—just like me—may surprise you. As an auto-mechanic a certain unsaid reputation follows. Blue-collar could be viewed as a lesser or uneducated occupation. This is demonstrably false. My father is the smartest man I know. I am lucky to have learned from him.
I’m also lucky to be employed at Central California Legal Services. I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only be an advocate, but advocate specifically for persons with disabilities. I assist our clients with social security, IHSS, and other public benefit matters. Here, this wheelchair has become a badge of honor for me. My hope is that our disabled clients feel understood and welcomed. I am supremely fortunate and privileged to serve our diverse community.
I would like to leave you with this:
“I believe things cannot make themselves impossible. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”
Public Benefits Paralegal | Central California Legal Services
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