Erb’s Palsy Awareness Week 2020: A Guest Interview Spotlight to Raise Awareness

To the left hand side is Arianna. She is a smiling toddler, has light wavy hair and is wearing a sunflower shirt. Underneath Arianna is a photo of Jaliyah. She wears glasses, a jean jacket, a shirt with writing and smiles at the camera. To the right hand side, there’s text that says: “October is Erb’s Palsy Awareness Month. A Guest Spotlight with Fellow Marylanders. Featuring a Wicomico County, Maryland family!” The Girl in the Pink Wheelchair
Image Description: To the left hand side is Arianna. She is a smiling toddler, has light wavy hair and is wearing a sunflower shirt. Underneath Arianna is a photo of Jaliyah. She wears glasses, a jean jacket, a shirt with writing and smiles at the camera. To the right hand side, there’s text that says: “October is Erb’s Palsy Awareness Month. A Guest Spotlight with Fellow Marylanders. Featuring a Wicomico County, Maryland family!” The Girl in the Pink Wheelchair

Today, I will be a featuring a local Wicomico family to help them with their goal of raising awareness for Erb’s Palsy! If you are a resident of the Eastern Shore, please feel free to reach out to me if you are doing disability events and need help with “boosting” it locally. I love to help!

Taylor is a resident of Wicomico County, Maryland. She had reached out to me about ways to celebrate Erb’s Palsy Awareness Month and Week which take both parts in October. 

Taylor’s daughter, Arianna, has Erb’s Palsy. As we know, I’m really passionate about knowing our disability community— including our littles ones! Our young ones with disabilities are our future advocates. I immediately jumped at how I could help with raising awareness for Erb’s Palsy with Taylor. Not only for our community on the Lower Eastern Shore, but in Maryland and nationally! In the state of Maryland, Governor Hogan has Proclaimed October has Erb’s Palsy Awareness Month.

Through Taylor, I have learned a lot about Erb’s Palsy, and am excited to share what I have learned! Taylor also introduced me to her friend, Nicole. She is also a resident of Maryland as well. Their daughters both have Erb’s Palsy. These two Marylander mothers formed a connection through both being parents and mothers. Nicole currently runs a Facebook support group and a non-profit group for Erb’s Palsy. Her work with Erb’s Palsy has gone far.

If you have Erb’s Palsy or are a parent/carer/guardian of a child with Erb’s Palsy, please feel free to reach out them for further connection!

WHAT IS ERB’S PALSY?

Erb’s palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy. It is named for one of the doctors who first described this condition, Wilhelm Erb.

The brachial plexus (BRAY-key-el PLEK-sis) is a network of nerves near the neck that give rise to all the nerves of the arm. These nerves provide movement and feeling to the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. Palsy means weakness, and brachial plexus birth palsy causes arm weakness and loss of motion.

One or two of every 1,000 babies have this condition. It is often caused when an infant’s neck is stretched to the side during a difficult delivery. Most infants with brachial plexus birth palsy will recover both movement and feeling in the affected arm, often with daily physical therapy exercises. Parents play an active role in helping their child recover maximum function in the affected arm.

Erb’s Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy) – OrthoInfo – AAOS.” OrthoInfo, orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/erbs-palsy-brachial-plexus-birth-palsy. 

Interview with Taylor and Nicole:

How did you and Taylor find one another? What has been the best part of that connection? 

Taylor: I searched for a support group on Facebook. I felt lost. I was scared. That’s when I met Nicole who created the group to help others cope and to let them know they are not alone. I’m forever thankful for her and all she has done.

Nicole: I started a support group for parents of kids that suffers from Erb’s Palsy called Arm’s In Motion. This is where Taylor and I met. It’s been a joy! The best part about meeting Taylor is her selflessness and willingness to help. She’s a beautiful person inside and out with an awesome family. 

What is one misconception that people have about Erb’s Palsy? What would you like people to understand more about Erb’s Palsy? 

Taylor: A misconception of Erb’s palsy is people say, ‘It’s temporary! It’s not serious!’ They put the blame on the mothers. Sometimes if a baby is big, it will happen coming out of the birth canal. Most of the time, a cesarean can prevent it. I want others to know that this is not easy for the child. It’s a life-changing thing. Surgeries, Botox, therapies, specialists– and I, mean, the list goes on and on.

Nicole: The biggest misconception about Erb’s Palsy is that Mom did something during birth. 

What would be one piece of advice that you would tell other parents (or carers/guardians) with a child of Erb’s Palsy? What was the thing that helped you during the journey?

Taylor: One piece of advice is that you’re never alone. We are in this together. Together we can make a change. Our babies will be awesome. Having my family, friends, and our Erb’s Palsy group support is what pushes us through.

Nicole: You’re not alone and this is NOT your fault. Take some time to yourself because you will be overwhelmed. Enter each challenge with your little one with your head held high because you’re fighting for your little’s one’s life. Ask as many questions as you need until you have an understanding of what’s going on. Educate yourself on Erb’s and never take, ‘NO, we cannot,’ for an answer! If you feel your child isn’t getting the best of care, get a second opinion.

How would you like other Marylanders to celebrate Erb’s Palsy Awareness Month?

Taylor: I would like for there to be yearly awareness walks in October or events that can continue to raise awareness.

Thank you to both Taylor and Nicole for taking the time to share their knowledge and raise awareness for Erb’s Palsy! I hope you have learned something new. I surely did! Most of all, I am thankful for these two Maryland mothers for making a difference for our younger generations with disabilities! If you want to connect further for ways that you can assist with their awareness projects this month, please feel free to reach out to them.

Love, Dom 

World Mental Health Day 2020: Mental Health Matters

Image Description: a drawing of a woman holding a globe, sitting next to plants. She looks forlorn, next to her are books, headphones and a bowl of food. She is wearing a baggy sweater and printed plants. Next to the drawing is quote that reads: "Your mental health matters. Always. You are entitled to sick days, just like anyone else. Take care of yourself, even if you need to rest today. The ADA entitles you to accommodations for your mental health disorder(s) because the quality of your life should always matter." Underneath is the text logo of The Girl of the Pink Wheelchair.

Image Description: a drawing of a woman holding a globe, sitting next to plants. She looks forlorn, next to her are books, headphones and a bowl of food. She is wearing a baggy sweater and printed plants. Next to the drawing is quote that reads: “Your mental health matters. Always. You are entitled to sick days, just like anyone else. Take care of yourself, even if you need to rest today. The ADA entitles you to accommodations for your mental health disorder(s) because the quality of your life should always matter.” Underneath is the text logo of The Girl of the Pink Wheelchair.

October 10 marks World Mental Health Day. During 2020 and our current pandemic, I think it’s especially important for all of us to talk about mental health and what that means. Mental health matters, but especially now.

Not only for our disability community but for all. This has been one of the scariest times for people to access the care that they need and rely upon. Let’s look at some statistics that the CDC has released from their study, just in case you were wondering how bad the numbers have been during this time. We often talk about how the pandemic has impacted our disability community. It’s always important to remember that the mental health community is apart of that, too.

“During June 24–30, 2020, U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.

“Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic – United States, June 24–30, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Aug. 2020, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm. 

Overall, 40.9% of 5,470 respondents who completed surveys during June reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including those who reported symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), those with TSRD symptoms related to COVID-19 (26.3%), those who reported having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%), and those who reported having seriously considered suicide in the preceding 30 days (10.7%) (Table 1). At least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom was reported by more than one half of respondents who were aged 18–24 years (74.9%) and 25–44 years (51.9%), of Hispanic ethnicity (52.1%), and who held less than a high school diploma (66.2%), as well as those who were essential workers (54.0%), unpaid caregivers for adults (66.6%), and who reported treatment for diagnosed anxiety (72.7%), depression (68.8%), or PTSD (88.0%) at the time of the survey.

“Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic – United States, June 24–30, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Aug. 2020, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm. 
During late June, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use. ANXIETY/DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS 31%. TRAUMA/STRESSOR-RELATED DISORDER SYMPTOMS 26%. STARTED OR INCREASED SUBSTANCE USE 13%. SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED SUICIDE. 11%. *Based on a survey of U.S. adults aged >18 years during June 24-30, 2020 in the 30 days prior to survey.* For stress and coping strategies: bit.ly/dailylifecoping -- cdc.gov -- MMWR
Image Description: During late June, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use. ANXIETY/DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS 31%. TRAUMA/STRESSOR-RELATED DISORDER SYMPTOMS 26%. STARTED OR INCREASED SUBSTANCE USE 13%. SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED SUICIDE. 11%. *Based on a survey of U.S. adults aged >18 years during June 24-30, 2020 in the 30 days prior to survey.* For stress and coping strategies: bit.ly/dailylifecoping — cdc.gov — MMWR

As stated above in that image: 40% PERCENT of people struggled with mental health and or substance during that survey during this pandemic. That’s an uprising number! This is why mental health is so important to think about this year.

It is hard to live during a pandemic. I’m not surprised by certain populations being affected at disproportionate rates, despite how heartbreaking it is. It is immensely difficult for people to live during pandemics that experience disparities and poverty higher, are affected by the pandemic at higher levels, and have a higher risk of being infected and or death.

It’s also important to remember the implications of the pandemic for people with preexisting mental health disorders, as well. They are feeling the weight of not being able to access their doctors in person or may struggle with their telemedicine appointments due to not having broadband! Let’s also not forget the effects of those who may be experiencing homelessness or incarceration for example.

Did you know that 1 out of 5 Americans have a mental health disorder? Did you know that 1 out of every 25 Americans live with a more impacting mental health disorder; i.e. bipolar disorder schizophrenia, etc?

How often do we refer to things as “so crazy” or “so insane” to signify it as bad or “too much to handle”? For people who are living with mental health disorders (which are disabilities since sometimes people don’t “see” that), they internalize a lot of the same ableist language that others with disabilities do as well.

Every year, we see people dressed up on Halloween as “mental patients” which often perpetuate mental illness in a very unhealthy way or dehumanize it. Let’s not forget that “mental patients,” were often placed in asylums against their will– and subjected to horrible things.

I can go on, but I hope that you got my point. Mental health disorders are subjected to constant stigmatization. At this moment of time, it’s really hard to reach out due to social distance. Despite being recognized as a disability, our society often sees mental health disorders as something that’s “abnormal,” and something that’s “wrong.”

The only thing wrong about mental health is how we approach it. There’s nothing wrong about suffering from a mental health disorder or even having a bad time with your mental health. The only thing wrong is judging a person who does or perpetuating negative behaviors towards mental health. I think our concept of mental health needs to change. Remember: your mental health matters. Always.

So many are unaware that the ADA warrants your protections and accommodations because, in 2008, it expanded to cover mental health disorders as a disability.

We often talk a lot about sick days. To me, I think that you should never feel wrong for taking mental sick days — especially if you suffer from a mental health disorder. You are entitled to sick days, just like anyone else. Take care of yourself, even if you need to rest today. The ADA entitles you to accommodations for your mental health disorder(s) because the quality of your life should always matter.

With that, I hope you will take the time today to be more inclusive with your language, thoughts, and hearts towards those who are suffering from a mental health disorder. It’s extremely hard to live during a pandemic.


I hope you take some time to care for yourself – even if you don’t currently suffer from a mental health disorder. Even if you don’t suffer from a mental health disorder at this moment, it’s important to be gentle and nursing with yourself, especially now.

Love, Dom

#TheDisabilityVote: Why Does it Matter?

Dominique smiles at the camera holding a paper with a QR code. She is wearing a red knitted head headband and wayfarer glasses. The The Girl in The Pink Wheelchair logo is over top. There is a quotation that reads, “I have a lot to say as a woman with a disability, a Marylander with a disability, and a believer in making rural communities better for people with disabilities. If you want to make your community better,  you need to VOTE”! #DisabilityVote  To the opposite side, is another image. It reads “Register to vote today! Point your smart’s phone camera here; arrow point at QR code. When We All Vote in corner
Image ID: Dominique smiles at the camera holding a paper with a QR code. She is wearing a red knitted head headband and wayfarer glasses. The The Girl in The Pink Wheelchair logo is over top. There is a quotation that reads, “I have a lot to say as a woman with a disability, a Marylander with a disability, and a believer in making rural communities better for people with disabilities. If you want to make your community better, you need to VOTE”! #DisabilityVote To the opposite side, is another image. It reads “Register to vote today! Point your smart’s phone camera here; arrow point at QR code. When We All Vote in corner.”

If you didn’t know, September 22nd was National Voter Registration Day. I shared about it on my Facebook page as well as Instagram Stories. If you had an event, let me know, so I can share your voter outreach!


As I mentioned, it was National Voter Registration Day yesterday. I wanted to do more, share more, and participate. My local library even had a virtual event! You should love your local Library and always support their events, especially now. (That will be another post.)


However, my body was not obligating yesterday. I was in bed for some of it– and was not feeling the best. I don’t really like talking about the not so pretty parts of my life, but alas. As a person who is chronically honest, I can’t deny that I have a chronic illness. I also make chronically corny jokes, too. Life tip from me to you: I learned a long time ago if you want to make your life better, focus on others. Make jokes too, even if they’re bad. Laughing is good. It’s okay to focus on yourself, too, but spend most of it on others. Good humans get rewarded for good work, I believe.

That brings me back to these key points:


The lack of my body cooperating reminded me of why I became so passionate about voting in the first place. The thing is, I am someone who is disabled and whose disability requires specialized medications. It means policies like healthcare, for example, are a huge thing.


If you are wondering above by the way, “Why she is holding a bar code?” That’s totally okay. I’ll explain it. This is actually a voter registration from When We All Vote which is a nonpartisan voting organization. I’m so proud to be a Squad Captain for When We All Vote. When you whip out your smartphone, it’ll open up a website where you can register to vote. This is super great for voter outreach– and my friends have been using it! I point my camera at the QR code, a website pops up, and then it redirects me here. If you’re isolated at home because of COVID, you can encourage your loved ones (you see) or PCA (personal care attendant) to register! Bam!


The coolest part of When We All Vote’s registry is that it offers MULTIPLE languages too! I talk a lot about accessibility.

To advocate for accessibility, it must mean that I have to advocate for all forms of accessibility. Not just physical access, but all forms of it. If you want to advocate for accessibility, you need to implement it into your life. That means you need to offer space for me, but also everyone in need of accessibility.

I grew up in a family where English was not the only language that I heard. It means that I was aware that access to space was complicated and complex. It means that I understand that access isn’t given, despite it being a basic human right. It means that I want to make accessibility something that I improve upon in all facets of my life.


As someone with a disability (especially living in a rural area), I know why voting matters. Policies, politics, and politicians all matter deeply to me because I am a disabled young woman— and will live through the decisions made by these politicians for a long time.


When I cast a vote, I have to work harder to vote. We often don’t have physical access to voting. It’s stressful and not fair. Disabled people are now listening to the “evils” of mail-in voting while many of us (myself included) require isolation and or some of us require voting in person due to limitations with mail-in voting due to disability.


To make it more complicated, there are disabled people in nursing homes where COVID-19 has presented such inaccessibility and even potentially denied their voting rights. This is not okay, but yet this is reality.


This is why I’m reminding you to register. I’m reminding you to encourage others you know to vote, especially if they’re disabled. I have talked to a few disabled people over the last few weeks. No matter who you vote for, I just want you to vote!


I’m encouraging you to be accessible with your messages for outreaching. Think of homes where the music is multilingual and some who don’t have an address beyond the homeless shelter. Use voting materials that’s accessible and make yourself sensitive to the world.


Accessibility counts so much for the physical, but also how we navigate digital spaces— and should apply to other aspects like linguistic and emotional. Disabled people are diverse. Not all disabilities are the same. Just like how accessibility is a complex issue, so is disability. Disability also applies to learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, Deafness/hearing disabilities, and I can keep going on. Not everyone with a disability is the same. We are diverse!


And so with this, I’ll finish by saying:


For 2020, I encourage you to embrace ways to encourage those with disabiltiies to vote. I’ll be celebrating this week with spreading voting information with my friends at the Voting subcommittee, sharing content, and materials!


I have a lot to say as a woman with a disability, a Marylander with a disability, and a believer in making rural communities better for people with disabilities. If you want to make your community better, you need to vote! Get registered, friends!

The Incredible Kindness of Freedom

There’s a quote to the left of the image that reads, “To have freedom gifted to you is an indescribable feeling. There’s no way to describe how it feels to be granted an ability to fly freely again. I haven’t felt so free in so long. I feel truly… BOUNDLESS!” To the right is a photo of Dominique. She’s in her manual chair. It’s a sepia photo. The background has trees. There is a body of water. Underneath is a quote that reads, “Read about my friend Tilghman’s incredible act of kindness on the site!” Underneath is a text logo that says “The Girl in the Pink Wheelchair.”
There’s a quote to the left of the image that reads, “To have freedom gifted to you is an indescribable feeling. There’s no way to describe how it feels to be granted an ability to fly freely again. I haven’t felt so free in so long. I feel truly… BOUNDLESS!” To the right is a photo of Dominique. She’s in her manual chair. It’s a sepia photo. The background has trees. There is a body of water. Underneath is a quote that reads, “Read about my friend Tilghman’s incredible act of kindness on the site!” Underneath is a text logo that says “The Girl in the Pink Wheelchair.”

I want to be honest in this. Not only so you can see what an incredible kindness that an adaptive vehicle is, but also so you can learn what disabled people go through when it comes to transportation. Rarely, do we mention that disabled people often don’t have vehicles and sometimes are trapped physically because of this. Education and knowledge is our first step to changing things. The ability to leave your home should be a fundamental right.

Since the pandemic occurred, my freedom has not been the same. Like a lot of disabled people in this world without adaptive vehicles, I relied on public transportation if I wanted to explore life in my electric chair.

If I was traveling anywhere else, I had to travel via my manual chair. Due to my NMD, I have muscle weakness. A manual chair that doesn’t fit me well anymore and weak muscles aren’t a great combination for adventures unfortunately.

As much as I appreciate it when my family and friends give me a boost, you can’t replace the feeling of pushing yourself. There’s a feeling of being in charge; of feeling independent. When you’re disabled, you have to forsake a lot of things when it comes to your independence. The few things that you can manage by yourself are important.

A fine median point for me was public transportation. I could still use my electric chair, didn’t need to worry about transferring, and could finally feel like I was fully independent in ways that I hadn’t in other ways. Granted, it didn’t solve the problem for going places outside of a local city… but it did give me immediate freedom! The first time that I hopped on the bus with my cousin, I began crying. It wasn’t hormonal. It was just joyous. Sweet freedom!

Unfortunately, the bus access in my current city is more complicated than in my last city. There are strict time limitations and restrictions on how long I can be out for example. Currently, I can’t use it due to COVID. It has been one of the many things that disabled people are going through. I use this far away lanague because my experience is not isolated. So rarely do we think that people are lacking access to leave their homes. However it’s a reality, especially for the disabled community. Lack of access exists for us in a lot of ways.

Except my story becomes kind of magical.

Amazingly a beautiful miracle happened because of my friend, Tilghman! When he and his family learned that I didn’t have an adaptive van, they GIFTED me their old van! It was incredible kindness. Tilghman, like me, is passionate about advocacy for people with disabilities. Our friendship has been such a blessing to me in so many ways.

I suppose that if two advocates connect, you’re kind of bound to create wonderful things? Maybe I’m biased, but hey!

Not only did he and his family bless me with something that makes my entire family’s life easier, but they blessed me with the ability to be free. When we talk about gifting someone a gifting an adaptive van, the gift is so much more than a vehicle. It’s a literal freedom.

It’s made my life more accessible in so many ways. I can travel to appointments easier, go out to places that aren’t accessible via a manual chair and the list goes on. I no longer require assistance when out and about. This may seem like a small victory to someone else, but it’s a huge thing to me. Really.

In the same way that I lost my physical freedom because of COVID exposure, my sweet friend gave me a sense of freedom that I haven’t experienced in years. I remember how AMAZING it felt to have freedom again when I first got my electric chair. I could suddenly go as fast as I wanted, no more needing people to push me, and no more reminders of dependence.

They say sometimes you meet people for the most unexplainable reasons. I have always believed that. I can never explain in words how much I cherish Tilghman, this gift, or how much I cried that first night. I thought a lot about this post. Would a ‘thank you’ suffice? Should I simply thank you, thank you over and over again? Except that didn’t feel honest. The reason why this gift is so special is because all of these factors are why adaptive vans are so freeing. It’s because a gift like that unshackled me. A gift like that is special.

Thankfully, I have a special friend too!

To have freedom gifted to you is an indescribable feeling. There’s no way to describe how it feels to be granted an ability to fly freely again. I haven’t felt so free in so long. I feel truly… BOUNDLESS!

#DisabilityCounts2020 for Marylanders with Disabilities

My 2020 Census Participation Matters!

2020 Census Maryland logo; 2020 is decorated with the MD flag. It has black and orange patches. The second patch has red and white shapes. Underneath reads, "Census Maryland.

#DisabilityCounts2020

Complete your census at www.my2020census.gov
Image ID: My 2020 Census Participation Matters! 2020 Census Maryland logo; 2020 is decorated with the MD flag. It has black and orange patches. The second patch has red and white shapes. Underneath reads, “Census Maryland. #DisabilityCounts2020
Complete your census at www.my2020census.gov

Other Resources:

Sticker Printables (I will be distributing some of these locally!!)

Census Disability Resources: https://disabilityorganizing.net/resources/

Why is the Census Important for Disabled People?

Reasons People with Disabilities Do Not Participate in the Census

“I’ve never been asked.”

Of the 68 people with disabilities we interviewed in our focus groups and listening sessions during the Fall 2018, only 11 had ever received the census—in their entire lives. Of those, only nine had returned it. There is no reason to suspect this is not also true beyond the scope of our inquiry, suggesting that the number of people with disabilities who have participated in the census is significantly lower than the number of people with disabilities who should, and could be counted.

“2020 Census Disability Community Toolkit.” #DisabilityCounts2020

Think about that for a moment.


A lot of disabled people are not asked why they don’t participate in census-taking even though disabled people are dependent on so many of these systems whether it’s federal funding (i.e. food stamps) or even life saving programs such as Medicaid. It’s imperative for disabled people to participate in the census, but we often are left out of the conversation!

This isn’t okay with me at the slightest. Is it okay with you?

As a disabled woman, it’s heartbreaking. As someone who understands how many people who are dependent on these systems can be going out with life dependent resources, it’s not okay. There have been so many thoughts on my mind lately on how I can make an impact for these communities which I care for; that I desperately want to help.


We often forget that our disabled community represents people of all ethnicities, races, etc. Disabled people are diverse. When I think of how my community of disabled people can be severely harmed by not being included in an important conversation, it’s heartbreaking.


If you’re now wondering, “What can do we do to make sure that disabled people are counted for the census?” Let’s talk about it.


The deadline for the census has been moved up, unfortunately, to September 30th. That means we have less time to “fill in the gaps” of the census.
Don’t worry, I have ideas for you.


Even if you can’t physically volunteer, it doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage voters! Let’s get our community active! If you’re disabled, you can encourage your family and friends to become active too!


How do we get our disabled community (especially on a local level such as Wicomico and Worcester County) more involved in the census? Rural areas like ours need this funding- and the disabled community is already counted as a “hard to count,” community per the Census Bureau.

  • It’s pivotal to understand that ACCESSIBILITY means that disabled people require you to present your content with closed captions, Image Descriptions/Braille, and presenting information in ways that will make it accessible for all disabled people. If you want to outreach to disabled people, you need to remember that disability is not “one size fits all.” The same way public events planned thoughtlessly are often inaccessible for me as a wheelchair user, it’s inaccessible when videos lack Closed Captions for Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals.

  • Many disabled people are isolating and or quarantined due to the health risks of COVID. While many disabled (and able-bodied) people, unfortunately, do not have internet access because of financial issues, you can raise awareness of the issues at stake by your able-bodied friends and family when they don’t fill in their census! Make videos, share your experiences, and get involved.

  • Use the hashtag #DisabilityCounts2020 which was created to share the disability experience in relation to why the census is important to our community if you’re a disabled person. I have created resources at the top (with the MD Logo) and shared other resources that were made by the California organization to help turnout the disability community for the census!

I will be sharing videos, segments, and clips of my census volunteerism throughout this month and more information. I hope this helps! I’m excited to share my journey of how I encourage census-taking in my area. I can’t wait to see your volunteerism too!

Love,

Dom

VOTE 2020: Resources for Disabled and Non-Speakers Voters in Maryland

Resources for Disabled & Non-Native Speaking Voters. The Google Docs will be updated periodically. Click the article for the links
Image ID: Resources for Disabled & Non-Native Speaking Voters. The Google Docs will be updated periodically. Click the article for the links. Text logo for the The Girl in the Pink Wheelchair

Thank you to my friend, Rosie, for choosing me as her first Eastern Shore activist in her ‘Why Vote Wednesday’ feature. Rosie is a local activist that is a woman of color, disabled, and all-around lovely human. I am so thankful to have connected with someone who gets me. If you’re not following her journey, you should!


I was thankful to be her first feature in her series. In it, I discussed some reasons why you should vote. I shared how I am one of the 11.4% disabled individuals in Maryland with a disability. We’re not discussing this.


We’re not talking about it feels to represent almost 12% the state population, but feel like you’re represented in ZERO present of the political arena. We deserve to be represented and have politicians that will represent us. When policies affect us at deep levels, it’s important to “show up,” to vote.

Vote for politicians for politicians who care and whose policies reflect the change that we need. Vote to show that your voice matters. Vote because it’s your right. Vote for whatever reason sets your soul or heart on fire. Vote because ultimately, your vote matters. Especially if you’re disabled or another minority that isn’t featured in the political sphere of politics. If you feel frustrated by the current state of politics, your vote allows you to choose candidates that reflect your values.


I started realizing that resources for disabled voters were really poor. There should be resources. The same way that there should be resources for voters who struggle with English.


I grew up in a family of immigrants. I am proud of mixing words. I am proud of mispronouncing words, proud of how it has shaped me, and proud of being in a family where I know what voting meant. Voting wasn’t easy, either, for people in my family who struggled with English.


Voting is not always accessible for those who struggle with English. And yes, they legally have the right to vote, even if they struggle. We don’t talk about the issues that non-native speakers may have at the voting booths. The same way that we don’t talk about the issues that wheelchair users (like me) have at the booths. Sometimes the very real issues get pushed under the rugs.


I have made these Google Documents to help fight these issues. There will soon be a Spanish equivalence for these. I encourage you to reach out with your advice, as well as make a video for #GoVoteWednesday.

Share why it matters. Share your experiences. Share why it counts. Tag Rosie and I. Share it with your friends and family. Get passionate. Share your passion. Share these resources. Follow Rosie’s project of “Why Vote Wednesday.” Keep speaking up! Do your thing. We love it.


Most of all, I say:
Let’s make Maryland and our world, a better place for people whose voices aren’t heard. We need a better world for everyone.

Love, Dom

Resources for Accessible Voter Outreach and Organizing

Resources for Eastern Shore MD Voters with Disabilities & Non-Native Speakers


Grant Yourself Some Kindness

Image ID: to the left is text that reads “ When we grant ourselves acts kindness, it makes us kinder. We deserve the kindness we give ourselves. Give yourself the love and kindness that you bestow upon others. Small acts of self love can change your entire life. Be kind to yourself today..” Next to the quote is a photo of Dominique. She stares at the camera, her kindness bracelet is hanging, she is resting her face on her hands. She is wearing an Italian amulet necklace, has curly hair and is wearing a tank top. Underneath her is text that reads “The Girl in the Pink Wheelchair.”

I am proudly wearing my Kindness bracelet that was made by my friend Grace who runs “Kind SBY” in the photo above. These bracelets help you count your acts of kindness every day. Not only are they cute, but they also have a purpose. As someone who has a moral code founded on kindness— and creating a kinder, more conscious, and beautiful world: I love this. Grace is my kindred spirit, by the way, and you should support her nonprofit — if you can! She does wonderful things and really makes this world a better place. Especially in our city of Salisbury!


The thing is, we don’t talk a lot about what acts of kindness mean sometimes beyond doing it for others. What does kindness mean when it comes to how we treat ourselves?


I felt really guilty for taking a past Sunday for myself. I am a mover personality. I want to be in movement. July 26th was the 30th Anniversary of the ADA. I didn’t make a celebratory post. I didn’t do anything but restore myself. I recharged, unplugged from social media, and rested. I felt better. Except, I was supposed to be doing something to talk about the ADA! Right? I had that duty as an advocate. Except I also had a duty, as a person, to rest and slow down.


As I looked down on my wrist, I realized that I was granting myself an act of kindness. I was letting myself rest. I was giving myself the ability to rejuvenate. We often forget that we can be kind to ourselves. Most importantly, we owe it to our bodies to be kind to them. We owe it to ourselves to grant love to ourselves when we need it. Resting is not selfish. It is an act of kindness.

It is okay to acknowledge that is tiresome to not always want to celebrate. 30 years of the ADA is groundbreaking and wonderful. However, so many people (myself included) carry bone-deep exhaustion because the ADA is not perfect. I often wait outdoor stores due to lack of access, say “no” to events, and face discrimination still — despite 30 years of the ADA. This is why it is not wrong if you choose to rest sometimes — even if you weren’t tired in a traditional sense.


Everyone deserves rest whether they’re disabled or able-bodied people. We all need to unplug, restore, and grant ourselves some kindness. By granting ourselves a chance to step back, we can acknowledge that we have feelings instead of constantly moving. Disabled people, even with private formats, have to learn to advocate for themselves. We have to advocate in medical scenarios, in public formats, and in private environments. That’s a lot for shoulders to carry.

When we grant ourselves acts kindness, it makes us kinder. We deserve the kindness we give ourselves. Give yourself the love and kindness that you bestow upon others. Small acts of self love can change your entire life. Be kind to yourself today.


I think there are a few things about growing up traditional Southern Italian that is super typical. You eat a lot. You cook even more. More importantly, when August comes around, it signifies “Ferragosto” will be here soon. Italians close shop, holiday, and relax during the month of August. During the Assumption of Mary, it’s common for it to be a long weekend for Italians. The 1st of August signifies a time of relaxation and rest.


For us here, it has always meant that it’s time to carry on traditions, and family time. It means that summer is ending. We need to cherish the fruits of summer. After months into a pandemic, I hope we can all celebrate as my family does. I challenge you to implement some acts of kindness. Not just into others, but into your own. Take this month and unwind. Restore. Relax. Unwind. Cherish the fruits that you have grown.


If you want a bracelet, you can buy it here online if you’re not local.

Farewell, Disability Pride Month

Disability Pride Month! Thank you for a month of education, representation, & much needed conversations. May we all have become more connected and educated if you were able-bodied! Until next year! The Girl in the Pink Wheelchair (text logo)
Image ID: Farewell Disability Pride Month! Thank you for a month of education, representation, & much needed conversations. May we all have become more connected and educated if you were able-bodied! Until next year! The Girl in the Pink Wheelchair (text logo)


It seems so strange to think that an entire month has gone by already.

Yesterday was the last day for Disability Pride Month. August is now here. Time sure goes by fast during quarantine, right?


A month of learning, leaning in and listening. A month of crying out, crying along with my fellow disabled friends that ableism sucks, and crying about the sucky parts about being disabled.
A month of saying that I love being disabled. A month of grazing my fingers against across my chest where my atrophic scars stick out. A month of staring back with a crooked smile at the way my atrophy has changed my appearance. If I don’t smile back at that appearance: am I being a “roll model” for younger girls? I battled with these thoughts this month. These are the thoughts that I wrestle as an advocate and as a disabled woman. This is realness between you and I. These mix together somewhere in between the world of Disability Pride and realness.


I must admit that despite it all, it was a month of truly really wonderful things.

Disability Pride is beautiful for many reasons. We’re not always granted access to many things. But when it comes to our identities? We’re not always granted access to owning our autonomy; owning our identity. Disability Pride allows us to take ownership; to say that this is “us.”

We are proud. We’re happy. We love ourselves. We love one another. We hope you love us, too, and the complexity this brings. Disability Pride does not mean that disability is perfect. It means ownership of identity, of autonomy; of acknowledgment. A sense of belonging.


I hope the conversation that I held the month of July made you learn.


I hope you learned from me. I hope that I taught you about new things — especially if you were able-bodied. I hope you learned about inclusion. I hope you learned about accessibility. I hope you learned about inaccessibility. I hope you learned that it’s okay if you’re still learning. We are ALL learning still.


Most of all, I hope you learned that this conversation will not end because July is over.


The ADA celebrated 30 years, but the work is not done.


The same way that Disability Pride Month may only be 31 days, these conversations will continue year-round. Keep listening. Talking about ableism doesn’t stop when July ends at midnight. I hope you know that accessibility and inaccessibility are key points in my life. The lives of many disabled people. Keep having these conversations. Keep learning.

If you’re able-bodied, please keep learning for the sake of your loved ones who are disabled. Keep learning for the sake of other disabled people, even strangers. Keep learning and engaging because our lives depend on things changing. August is here and advocacy will continue on.

I must end things by saying that I thank everyone who has helped me celebrate Disability Pride 2020! Especially everyone who has celebrated #SBYDisabilityPride2020! Thanks, especially, Salisbury for proclaiming July to be Disability Pride Month! What a way to celebrate July 2020!


Love,
Dom

Thank you, ADA #ADA30

ADA 30, Americans with Disabilities Act - Celebrate the ADA! July 26, 2020. At the top is a circle made of stars and numbers that say 1990-2020
Image Credit: Credit: ADA National Network (adata.org) 1-800-949-4232 [Image ID: ADA 30, Americans with Disabilities Act – Celebrate the ADA! July 26, 2020. At the top is a circle made of stars and numbers that say 1990-2020.]

Every day for “Disability Pride Month” – I am committed to writing pieces that reflect the diversity, truths, and reality of our disabled community If you want to share your piece with me or be interviewed this month, I would love to share your voice! Please email me at: submissions@thegirlinthepinkwheelchair.com

Today marks 30 years of the ADA. I am what’s known as the ADA Generation. That means that I lived after the Americans With Disabilities Act passed in 1990. I didn’t experience what some of my community has. As a woman with a disability, I’ve personally experienced the rights it has granted me. I witness them— getting coffee with friends, going to educational institutions, or even to the pharmacy. The power of the ADA is evident.

There is so much that I can thank the ADA for today. While I feel so thankful, I’m feeling such a sense of emotions for disabled people who didn’t have the ADA to protect them. These are the people who fought endlessly for us at the Capitol Crawl via Adapt. I shared about this on my Facebook page. If you’re not familiar, I’m going to link to that story here.

Mostly, I have been lost in thoughts about how the pre-ADA generation fought for access and legal rights when there wasn’t that protection. I know many people who were not apart of the ADA Generation. In particular, I have a relative who was not apart of this generation. Her experience growing up was not like mine. Her disability was onset from birth — and we have discussed ways which we have experienced ableism. I was always curious in how the experience of being disabled was like without legal protection of access..

Without the ADA, she had to fight for access to education. She didn’t have the ramps or ability to demand access. It wasn’t illegal. There was no way to say that she had a legal right to get access to it. I was not apart of this experience. 

I think of them today. I honor them. I mourn with them. I think of that last sentence because I wonder how many disabled people suffered due to the ADA not existing. How would my experience look in the 80s?

I think too of how many disabled people have experienced protection and fostered an ability to defend themselves because of it. I know mine my disability experience is better because I am apart of the ADA Generation. 

I have felt blessed in many ways for this because I think often of how life would have looked for me (as a wheelchair user especially) if I didn’t have the ADA. I think of my loved one’s experience, of the stories shared by advocates, and even the experiences shared in ‘Crip Camp’ (a powerful documentary on Netflix) of the pre-ADA generation. 

While the ADA still has ways to go (and I would never deny this), I cannot deny the impacts it has made on the lives of the disability community. It’s a good thing to remember when we are fighting for disability justice. At times like these, I want to remember the people in our community who have championed for us and still are.

So much of my experience is dependent upon wheelchair access, needing physical access, and knowing that I have legal rights to accessibility in these physical spaces. 

At this time, I think of businesses that must meet the ADA requirements for access. If it weren’t for the ADA, I would not be able to frequent many places I love. I wouldn’t be able to get access to them. It’s a reminder that everyday, I am thankful for the headway that we have made and the impacts made. 

There is a lot to celebrate today, but mostly I celebrate knowing that the ADA has paved ways for the disabled community— and continues to do so. I await to see the ADA make progress in the future. 

Today I celebrate the #ADA30 by celebrating the impacts we have made together, will make, and uplifting the celebration today. On my Instagram, I will be sharing videos of some disability advocacy this weekend related to the ADA in regards to how it makes me personally feel. I think it’s important for us to celebrate onwards into the weekend. I’ll also be sharing a selfie of me with a personal nod today in regards to #ADA30. I encourage you to do the same!

For some important reading, I urge you to check out Alice Wong’s blog for her focus on ADA pieces on diversity (because diversity is important) as well as watch the video linked below:

Happy 30th Anniversary ADA! What a celebratory weekend that we’re going to have during #DisabilityPrideMonth — and especially during #SBYDisabilityPrideMonth at that!

Love, Dom

National Disability Voter Registration Week

Every day for “Disability Pride Month” – I am committed to writing pieces that reflect the diversity, truths, and reality of our disabled community If you want to share your piece with me or be interviewed this month, I would love to share your voice! Please email me at: submissions@thegirlinthepinkwheelchair.com

White square graphic with black text saying “In 2020, over 35 million people with disabilities are eligible to vote!” The “35 million” is emphasized in larger, red text. Below the text, and separated from the text by a black horizontal line, are the white, blue, and red logos for the National Disability Voter Registration Week on the left and REV UP on the right.
Image ID: White square graphic with black text saying “In 2020, over 35 million people with disabilities are eligible to vote!” The “35 million” is emphasized in larger, red text. Below the text, and separated from the text by a black horizontal line, are the white, blue, and red logos for the National Disability Voter Registration Week on the left and REV UP on the right.

Today is July 17th which is the last day of National Disability Voter Registration Week! It kicked off on July 13th. It marked a great week of learning, listening and becoming more educated on issues that affect the community. I’m also apart of this community too. These issues matter because they’re happening to me.

If you’ve been following my social media, you’ve noticed that I’ve been posting about it. We often see a lot of commercials, social media posts, and even radio advertisements about voting. Except if you noticed (which I have for so many years): we rarely talk about how it impacts people like me. It’s a major problem because policies have a major impact on disabled people, minorities, women, and I can go on. I hope by now, you have the picture.


The disability community needs a place at the table, too.


I have been sharing on social media about this because voting is not a privilege, but a right. Everyone should be able to vote regardless if they require assistance to vote, require mail-in ballots due to a need to self-isolate during a pandemic, or physical adaptations at the poll booth. So many amazing advocates have been raising wonderful ways that you can include disabled people in your voting turn out. I’m going to be making this a longer post because this is a topic that I’m passionate about.


When we talk about voting, it’s a topic of accessibility. Oftentimes, the issue of voting is simply inaccessible. How many people simply say, “I would vote, but it’s not worth the hassle?” That’s a problem. Voting should always be accessible. There is THIRTY FIVE MILLION disabled eligible to vote this election. They deserve to cast their ballots, their voices and be acknowledged this year.


Let’s get some citations going to talk about what disabled people go when we cast a ballot.

Outside the voting area, GAO was able to examine features at all 178 polling places and found that 60 percent (107) had one or more potential impediments. The most common were steep ramps located outside buildings, lack of signs indicating accessible paths, and poor parking or path surfaces (see figure).

Voters with Disabilities: Observations on Polling Place Accessibility and Related Federal Guidance [Reissued on December 4, 2017]

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOJ study the implementation of federal accessibility requirements in the context of early in-person voting and, as necessary, make changes to existing guidance. DOJ generally agreed with GAO’s recommendation.

Voters with Disabilities: Observations on Polling Place Accessibility and Related Federal Guidance [Reissued on December 4, 2017]

That’s right, folks. You didn’t misread it.


SIXTY PERCENT OF THE POLLING PLACES WERE INACCESSIBLE!

That’s a real number. Just imagine if every polling place had to be accounted for, not just a small number as we see here. As you see, they concluded that early in-person voting would a hugely beneficial thing, as well as changes to the existing guidance. Of course, this was before the pandemic. Right now, it’s pivotal that we protect the lives of disabled people when we vote so disabled people are safe too! That’s why we need to talk about mail-in voting.


During the 2020 election, I think it’s pivotal to stress that we must be diligent to remind people that mail-in ballots help protect our disabled community. I see A LOT (and I can’t stress that enough) of hatred towards mail-in voting. My dear cousin went to vote and had to stand in line for 3 hours. Younger me (who was ambulatory) would absolutely be knocked out by that because I had weakness in my legs.

This is way before I had a wheelchair. She described the scene that she witnessed while voting– and it made me wonder, “What’s going on for disabled people whose states are fighting against mail-in voting? What are OUR options?” If you’re not sure where your state falls or you want to know where other states fall, just click this great resource here that was geared towards educating disabled voters on their rights.


When people argue that mail-in voting is wrong, I think it’s important to remind them that being against it is inherently ableist because disabled people suffer inaccessibility at the booths, the booths are not safe for ALL, and that everyone deserves to vote.


If you have someone who is incessant that there couldn’t be a logical reason for why disabled people couldn’t vote at a booth if they did it previously, here are a few great pandemic centric reasons for why it’s imperative to be supportive:

  • immune suppressed and or comprised make up a lot of our disability community
  • lacking reliable transportation due to many relying on public transport that can no longer make it due to risks of exposure
  • having issues with PCA s (personal care assistants); i.e. many rely on nursing and or PCAs but the pandemic has affected that as well due to exposure risks and agency issues
  • laack of general accessibility while casting ballots that was already witnessed in the 2016 election and having assistance from poll workers could be an exposure risk

I could continue on why we need to be stress the importance of this, but these are some great reasons that are related to COVID-19. I know we live in a time where many deny COVID-19 or say that COVID-19 is only a threat to the “high-risk” – but that’s 35 million who fall into that category. Should 35 million votes be displaced due to that?

If you want to vote in person, it’s important to know that the ADA (who is turning 30 on the 26th – may I add) does protect you! While not every polling place is accessible (as we learned above): the polling place is supposed to meet ADA guidelines. The ADA does protect you and your right to vote. If you vote and the polling place is not accessible, you have the right to speak up. You have the right to cast that ballot!

Here’s a great video below from 2016 on what fellow disabled people were experiencing when going to vote. I think this is such an important video to watch because this is a real experience of what’s happening. Disabled people are struggling to vote. Think on that for a few minutes. Should it be a struggle? At all?

As we end this, I remind you to register to vote! Use your voice! These policies impact your health, your life, and so much more. Disabled people are extremely impacted by politics — even if we sometimes are left out of the conversation or ballot booth. We will not tolerate this in 2020. We should not tolerate this any longer.

If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote, you can do it right with the AAPD! Just click this link! You can also click here for more information on how to register with your state and not via the AAPD if you’re more comfortable that way.

Even though this campaign is “over” by today, this election year is not. Disabled voters are still campaigning to raise voting in the community! I plan on becoming more proactive in my local community to get fellow disabled people more aware of their vote, how to use mail-in voting and or how to vote accessibly at the booths, and the protection they’re warranted at the actual booths via the ADA. Are you with me? Come along!

Are you a local Eastern Shore resident or a Maryland resident? Do you have thoughts about voting? Let’s talk. I want to discuss voting as a disabled voter with you! Email me at dom@thegirlinthepinkwheelchair.com