My name is Alexander James A. Robinson, and over four weeks, I interned at The Center for Independent Living as an Achieve scholar and a fellow Achieve classmate. TheCIL put me on an onboarding schedule where I learned about the various programs the organization offers. I was also asked about my interests and skills to figure out what exactly I’d be doing. After some discussion, we agreed that I’d be in a field of work centered around writing - whether it be research, scripts, or blogs (such as this one).
Being my first time in a job setting, I was thrilled to be a part of the team and ready to gain all that I could from my first work experience while also providing as much as possible. During my internship period, I gained experience operating both in a work environment and the disability community as a whole. Having the job responsibilities was new to me, but my supervisors guided me through my time at TheCIL, and I did my part to stay on task. I worked on three different projects: writing scripts for voice-overs, researching wildfire safety, and writing this article. My time at TheCIL deepened my mastery of writing and brainstorming, which are skills I’m sure I will need through life. I also gained a profound perception of the struggles and resilience of the disabled community.
Walking into this internship, I had a very vague understanding of disabled people, the challenges they face, and how to help them in any way I could. I knew that those with disabilities received prejudice, isolation and faced many societal barriers, but I never knew what they had done to fight against the hatred and cruelty. Over my time working for TheCIL, I was able to deepen my comprehension of both the tribulations of being disabled and facing barriers and the fight for the right to “be your own normal.”
The research played a significant role in my growth, including watching the documentary Crip Camp. This movie is mainly about activist Judy Heumann and her battle against the damage caused by society to people with disabilities and their opportunities. I also researched how disabled people can stay safe during California’s wildfire season. I wrote voice-over scripts for video narrators, mainly BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) emergency procedures and the BART app. Working on these projects gave me a newfound appreciation for the disability community. Learning about the inequality the disability community has persevered through gave me the motivation to be a more active ally and advocate for everybody’s equal participation in the community.
As a teenager, I find it highly crucial that we - the up and coming leaders of the world - acknowledge the barriers in our society for the disabled community and assist them in their ability to have equal access and express pride in who they are. Today, many people are quick to judge or turn away from the disabled, despite the years’ efforts to throw this prejudice out the window. It’s important that my generation, and those to come, shatter the chains that bind disabled people to society’s stereotypes.
Throughout history, conversations regarding disability are often taken uncomfortably and/or in a negative connotation. What isn’t seen, but is still ever-present, is the talent and potential that those with disabilities hold. Zion Shaver, a wrestler with no legs, stunned everyone to compete with the strongest athletes in his weight class. Despite his many accomplishments, an unfortunate and familiar part is missing from Zion’s story: recognition. Disabled people are restricted in many things by society, one of which is the privilege of being recognized not just by their disabilities and inspiring accomplishments but also by their humanity, relatable desires, and perseverance. One doesn’t need to have friends who are disabled or flood their Instagram profile with awareness infographics (although it doesn’t hurt). Simply being conscious of how we perceive and treat others affects people’s well-being is a massive step towards closing the societal gap of “normal and not.”