30 Days of MD: Seeing Disability Through a Different Lens

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by BNS Staff |

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Photo courtesy of Matt DeEmilio

Day 2 of 30

This is Matt DeEmilio’s story:

My name is Matt DeEmilio. I’m 27 years old, and I am the coordinator for disability support services at Coastal Carolina Community College in North Carolina. My job entails granting reasonable accommodations for equal access, raising awareness of all disabilities, and training faculty and staff in areas of accessibility.

Many individuals come into my office afraid of the next person who will judge them or put them in a box. In society, we categorize disabilities by what we think others can do — and yet haven’t spent a day in their shoes.

Let’s take a look through a different lens. Has anyone parked in a handicapped parking spot? I’m sure we are all guilty of it but we just created a barrier. We create barriers all the time without thinking about it, but we can make changes if we’re willing to listen.

I’m not an individual who has muscular dystrophy, but I know what it is. I’m not a person who experiences many barriers compared with others with MD, but I’m here to listen. Finally, I’m not a person to create a stigma about your diagnosis, but I’m here to help advocate.

I had the pleasure of doing an ableism workshop with Dani Liptak from Muscular Dystrophy News. This workshop was for faculty and staff to understand the importance of how to approach individuals with disabilities, what ableism is, and the stigma of inspiration.

It helps to understand the importance of not asking an individual with any disability about their “battles,” how great it was that they were able to wake up, or how blessed they are because they can make their own breakfast.

Does it bother you if a person struggles to get into a bathroom? Or if their wheelchair doesn’t fit through the door? Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. For me, I’m bothered by it even if it isn’t my family member or friend.

Every individual should have the same access as everyone else. I truly believe that all individuals were put on this earth for a reason. Individuals with disabilities can be great parents, siblings, role models, administrators, advocates, and much more.

Muscular Dystrophy News’ 30 Days of MD campaign will publish one story per day for MD Awareness Month in September. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofMD, or read the full series.