This is the talk I used to give at the once a month at the Extend-A-Family Inclusion Workshop

Picture this; you are seventeen, and you’re back in high school, sitting in class. You try to arm yourself against the stares and jeers that you know are coming, but are never quite prepared for, as you wait for the bell.

This is a normal occurrence for many teens,  and other young people who feel different, as it was for me. Due to the way that people reacted to my physical disability, I felt really different, alone, and like I didn’t fit in or belong anywhere. However, that changed when I met John Stewart, or Mr. Stewart, as I called him then.

Mr. Stewart was my entrepreneurship teacher in 2007, and right from the start, I felt included in his class. He’d call on me to answer questions, and he would take the time to understand my responses. You know, it’s the little, everyday things, which a lot of people overlook, that make the difference.

Inclusion doesn’t have to be a big production– it can be something as small as saying “hi” to someone in the hall, or taking five minutes to get to know a group member the next time you have a group project. To me, inclusion is simply recognizing and valuing another person’s worth, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality, religion or level of ability.  

I feel that how Mr. Stewart treated me, epitomizes this idea perfectly. In fact, my former teacher went over and beyond the call of duty, and assisted me with a number of extra-curricular activities, many of which were related to charity. All of this made me feel like I belonged, and that for once, my disability didn’t matter.

This brings me to my last point; for me, “disability” is just a word, and I don’t let it define me anymore. I used to subscribe to the idea that having a physical impairment would stop me from achieving my goals, as well as having a happy and successful life.

Dictionary.com defines “disability” as the “lack of adequate power, strength, or physical or mental ability; incapacity,” or “a physical or mental handicap, especially one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job,” whereas the Oxford Dictionary describes a disability as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.” 

Although the Oxford has a marginally nicer definition, I would like to offer my own. A disability is not a lack of ability, but an ability to find different ways to do things, e.g. finding a way to draw with your computer, when you can no longer draw by hand.

I have Cerebral Palsy, and that will never change, however, my former teacher Mr. Stewart, has helped me to shift my focus from my “disability” to my ability, simply by making me feel included and valued. I feel that others can make this shift if we promote, and subscribe to the idea that inclusion doesn’t have to be a big production.

I truly believe that it is the little, everyday things that can make the difference in someone’s life.

10629787_10152772065259686_5180326900001420349_nHey guys, a couple of people were asking me about the talks I do, ,so I thought I'd post one.

A Disability Is Not an Inability

Hi all, my name is Andre Campbell. I am a 25 year old writer, comic artist and speaker with Cerebral Palsy, and before I start, I would like to thank Extend-A-Family for inviting me to share my thoughts about disability, dignity and inclusion. Alright, first off, a person with a different level of ability might have many interests and aspirations, as well as other intriguing tidbits, but oftentimes, a lot of people hone in on one part of the individual; the “disability,” and thus lose sight of their other characteristics. Then terms and phrases like crippled, handicapped, disabled, a person with special needs, and differently abled, etc. are used to describe the variety of medical conditions commonly known as disabilities, but what exactly are disabilities?

If we look at the etymology of the word itself, and specifically its Latin roots we get the following. Dis is a Latin prefix that means “apart,” and ability coming from the Latin word habilitatem or habilitas meaning “aptitude.” So, disability literally means “apart from aptitude,” “apart from talent or skill.” Think about that. Right from the start, people saw those of us with varying levels of ability as inferior, and not able to be contributing members of society.  Over the years, this notion has seeped into society’s subconscious mind, and has become a nigh unconscious filter for how it views us.  Now, one could argue that times have changed - I’m not disputing this at all. Things (namely services, attitudes and accessibility,) have improved even within my lifetime. However, if we help shift society’s focus from disability and inability to ability, concepts like inclusion and dignity will be actualities, because they will become second nature to implement. Also, by promoting this newer belief that a disability isn’t an inability, the inferiority associated with the old belief will start to fall away.

To me, inclusion is simply recognizing and valuing another person’s worth, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality, religion or level of ability.  I feel that how Mr. Stewart treated me, epitomizes this idea perfectly. In fact, my former teacher went over and beyond the call of duty, and assisted me with a number of extra-curricular activities, many of which were related to charity. All of this made me feel like I belonged, and that for once, my disability didn’t matter.

I used to subscribe to the idea that having a physical impairment would stop me from achieving my goals, as well as having a happy and successful life.  However, Mr. Stewart, helped me to shift my focus from my “disability” to my ability, simply by making me feel included and valued. I feel that others can make this shift if we promote, and subscribe to the ideas that inclusion doesn’t have to be a big production, and that different levels of abilities are not inabilities. These differences don’t make us inferior or lesser people - each one of us here tonight has talents and skills, and are, or can be contributing members of our communities, as well as society as a whole, regardless.

Thank you!

Inclusion Celebration Talk

Hi all, my name is Andre Campbell. I am a 25 year old writer, comic artist and speaker with Cerebral Palsy, and before I start, I would like to thank Extend-A-Family for inviting me to share my thoughts about disability, dignity and inclusion. 

Alright, first off, a person with a different level of ability might have many interests and aspirations, as well as other intriguing tidbits, but oftentimes, a lot of people hone in on one part of the individual; the “disability,” and thus lose sight of their other characteristics. Then terms and phrases like crippled, handicapped, disabled, a person with special needs, and differently abled, etc. are used to describe the variety of medical conditions commonly known as disabilities, but what exactly are disabilities?

If we look at the etymology of the word itself, and specifically its Latin roots we get the following. Dis is a Latin prefix that means “apart,” and ability coming from the Latin word habilitatem or habilitas meaning “aptitude.” So, disability literally means “apart from aptitude,” “apart from talent or skill.” Think about that. Right from the start, people saw those of us with varying levels of ability as inferior, and not able to be contributing members of society.  

Over the years, this notion has seeped into society’s subconscious mind, and has become a nigh unconscious filter for how it views us.  Now, one could argue that times have changed – I’m not disputing this at all.

Things (namely services, attitudes and accessibility,) have improved even within my lifetime. However, if we help shift society’s focus from disability and inability to ability, concepts like inclusion and dignity will be actualities, because they will become second nature to implement.

Also, by promoting this newer belief that a disability isn’t an inability, the inferiority associated with the old belief will start to fall away.

To me, inclusion is simply recognizing and valuing another person’s worth, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality, religion or level of ability. I feel that how Mr. Stewart treated me, epitomizes this idea perfectly. In fact, my former teacher went over and beyond the call of duty, and assisted me with a number of extra-curricular activities, many of which were related to charity.

Disability is not inability
Disability is not inability


All of this made me feel like I belonged, and that for once, my disability didn’t matter.I used to subscribe to the idea that having a physical impairment would stop me from achieving my goals, as well as having a happy and successful life. However, Mr. Stewart, helped me to shift my focus from my “disability” to my ability, simply by making me feel included and valued.

I feel that others can make this shift if we promote, and subscribe to the ideas that inclusion doesn’t have to be a big production, and that different levels of abilities are not inabilities. These differences don’t make us inferior or lesser people – each one of us here tonight has talents and skills, and are, or can be contributing members of our communities, as well as society as a whole, regardless.

Thank you!

The meeting with my supervisor yesterday, went as well as I had expected it to go...Frustrating as HELL!

The gist of our conversation is as follows; she doesn't understand how having someone I know accompany me to work, or me moving out would help my situation. It wouldn't make it any safer because I'd spasm no matter who I'm with.

"This isn't a staffing issue, Andre," she said, "...We are sending staff with you..."

I acknowledged her points, then I added that I wouldn't have worry about trying to direct someone, and be understood mid spasm if the attendant already knew me and what to do. My supervisor replied to this by suggesting that I take the bus, (MobilityPlus,) if I'm worried about spasming, so I reminded her that I already do.

I went on to say that what happened on Friday, isn't the sole incident behind my desire to move out, it was the last straw - my tipping point. However, a lot more was said yesterday, but I'm getting really anxious again writing just this much, so, long story, short, my supervisor is going to put me back on the waitlist for outreach, (in-house care,) as well as the waitlist for Kiwanis, which is in my hometown. This means that I'll be here for awhile yet, unfortunately, and even though I like living on my own, and having my own place, all this ILC crap is extremely taxing.

God, I hate confrontations, but I am going to fight this, and maybe even get a lawyer.

In a previous post, I mentioned "a few" of the issues that I've been having with ILC,  and that I let a heck of a lot slide. I also mentioned how it's a struggle to get an attendant to accompany me to work and book events. Well, listen to this.

I was invited to a day camp to speak to 6-11 year olds about real life superheroes, and the talk itself went really well. However, I wasn't allowed to take any of the Mooregate staff, (the PSWs I see everyday,) so, I went out with someone who didn't know or understand me well so I was practically on my own, and spasmed and almost drove off the curb twice! Next month, I work at Extend-A-Family, and ILC is trying to make get there and back  totally on my own, and only have an attendant for the first and last 15 minutes just to set me up, and then get me ready to go back to my apartment. 

This is the last straw! I'm not going to jeopardize my safety for anything, hell no! I'm done, and I have a meeting with my supervisor to tell her as much!

Kids' Soccer Camp

Computer: …and I am Ryan, Andre’s trusty and hardworking sidekick… “his computer”…and this other fine “human” “…person” “being…” is Andre’s assistant. 

How are you all doing today?

“Cool, well, Andre is 24 years old, he has a disability called Cerebral Palsy, and he talks differently which is why he takes me out places.

”I like to think that we’re sorta like Batman and Robin, which brings me to why we’re here,  Andre and I made a comic book about a normal guy named Cal, who has a disability, and eventually discovers that he also has superpowers. 

We are here today to talk with you about real life superheroes.

”Can anyone give us an example of a real life hero and/or heroine, and what makes them one?”Anyone can be a hero or heroine, and Andre and I both agree on this, because it’s not who you are, or having a “special” ability that makes you a hero, it’s what you do…Just imagine I had hands, and was able to put air quotes around the word “special,” alright? “

…No, wait, scratch that...” “Don’t imagine me with hands, that’s just silly! Who has ever heard of a computer with hands?!”

…Anyway, back to what I was saying, Bruce Wayne didn’t become Batman because he had rich parents, he became Batman to…

”Does anyone know why Bruce turned himself into the well-known hero?”

Due to the way his parents were killed, Wayne dedicated his life to fighting crime, so no one else would have to lose their mum and dad in the way that he lost his. He wasn’t born with superpowers, or special abilities, but that didn’t stop him from putting away bad guys, and it hasn’t yet.

Superheroes of the Justice League
Justice League Superheroes

“Similarly, Peter Quill, (or “Star-Lord” as he likes to be called,) from the Guardians of the Galaxy is “only” human, and doesn’t have special powers. Air quotes around “only.” However, he doesn’t give up, and when life throws him a curve ball, he just rolls with it, and continues on.”

“So, if you were to ask Andre and I for our definition of a hero, we’d say that there are several different types of heroes, and many of them go unnoticed, and don’t wear flashy costumes. They are everyday people like Andre and all you, who stands up for the underdog, and doesn’t give up even through the toughest times.

”Before Andre and I go, we would like to leave you with a quote from one of the best Batman movies ever made.“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy's shoulders to let him know that the world hadn't ended.” – Batman, The Dark Knight Rises. 

We would also like to offer you the time to ask Andre questions, and if you don’t understand him please don’t be afraid to ask him to repeat himself.“By everyone! I shall leave you in Andre’s capable hands, “‘cause just between you and I, he feels  a little left out when I do all the talking.”

Me: Thanks Ryan!

Computer: …No problem, buddy. Just trying to keep it real!

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