“What is something you thought you deserved but didn’t get?”

September 9, 2016 | Jessica McHale

“What is something you thought you deserved but didn’t get?” My best friend asks me as he ponders how to answer this question for one of his medical school applications. A million examples play themselves out in my head, and for what seems to be the first time in five years, the bitter experiences that accompany living with a disability are not the first thing to pop in my head. A mere two weeks ago during orientation for the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) Summer Internship Program, Kelly Buckland, the Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), asked each AAPD 2016 intern how they have experienced discrimination due to their disability. When I finally gained the courage to speak up about what I endured during high school, I immediately choked up and starting crying in a room full of silent people before I could finish my sentence. The painful incidents I encountered during high school as a result of my disability left me resentful toward my impairment. Up until college, I rarely discussed my condition and became ashamed of having to do things differently from my peers.

However, after each speaker during orientation, I became more and more proud of my disability, more encouraged to speak often about my disability, and more inspired to act on the discrimination people with disabilities face on a daily basis. Each speaker taught me something new about the disability community, advocating for myself, and, most importantly, loving my condition despite the pain that it may bring. My identity as a person with a disability changed within the span of one week, and all it took was the right people to show me the beauty in living openly with my condition.

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Jessica McHale is a student at American University majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Justice, Ethics, and Human Rights. This summer Jessica interned with US Agency for International Development (USAID).

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