#WhyDisabledPeopleDropout is Showing the Horrors of Being a Disabled Student

Hello, everybody and welcome to May!

 

Recently, I have been scrolling through Twitter and one hashtag keeps popping up. It is, #WhyDisabledPeopleDropout. It was made to bring attention to the unique struggles that disabled students face. This sparked a myriad of responses. A large proportion spoke about the lack of support from staff. As well as, accessibility issues, and general chronic illness.

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Here, Kayle Hill discussed the ongoing struggle of not being able to get to classrooms. Meaning that we are segregated from the campus and other people. However, the staff puts this issue at the bottom of the totem pole, which is very common.

 

In another post, Sarah Brunke puts a lot of our problems in a very simple sentence:

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Many others discussed people accusing us of “special treatment.” Including the professors not understanding us in any way.

 

University is hard for everyone but having a disability on top of the already ever-growing stresses can make it feel impossible. Having said that, I thought I would share my experiences with the university. I am currently doing my second degree. This one is all online which makes it very hard. I can’t explain my condition to my lecturers. I have very little communication with anyone relating to the course. However, if I am having a bad day, I can take the morning off with ease, and do whatever I need to do to function. Saying that my first degree was on campus and I loved it. I know that my university was unique. I had an amazing disability support officer, and to be honest, I ignored my disability as much as I could. To be honest, it wasn’t healthy, and it destroyed my body to the point where I was in bed for almost two years. But I managed to survive with somewhat decent grades.

 

I didn’t have high expectations when attending university. In fact, most of my fuel to survive came from my high school teachers telling me I wasn’t smart enough to do it. (Well, smart enough and it will be too difficult with my disability). The truth is, whilst my university experience was good — for the most part — my high school experience was horrific. My wheelchair couldn’t get into any of the classrooms. I had to park it outside of the classroom, walk inside and climb a step. I got accused of special treatment and attention seeking on almost a daily basis. In fact, one of those accusers was a teacher. I was forced to have a teaching aid because I got one D when no one else who got a D had to have one. I told the teacher’s I didn’t need or want one and they forced it, all because I’m disabled. I even got kicked out of a class I enjoyed all because they refused to move the class to a room without stairs. Yes, that’s right, they didn’t have a lift. Well, they did, except it NEVER worked. However, the real kick in the guts for me was sports sessions. Part of the school’s curriculum was five hours of sport a week. If you missed the bus you had to sit in a room in silence and write lines for the entire time. If you had an injury, you also had to sit in the room. On occasion, we were allowed to do homework but most of the time we still had to write lines. For me, that meant that I spent five hours a week being punished for the fact that my legs can’t do netball. I’m sorry, but what kind of garbage is that? My parents and I kept complaining but no one would do anything until my senior year. At one point my vice principal claimed that she gave me an option to go home but I preferred to stay in detention. Yeah, that seems legit. Who wouldn’t choose writing lines over the beach?

 

By the time I graduated, I had accepted this. I thought that was just how the world works and it was all I had to look forward to. I didn’t ever think education could be any different. So, when I say, I had very low expectations for university I mean, extremely almost non-existent ones. However, I was surprised, and was actually listened to!

 

I tell this story for two reasons. One is to shed a light on educational systems and disabilities. This is both for students and employees to try and have an idea about what it’s like for us. The second is for disabled students, I know it is so dang hard. I know it seems hopeless and horrific but doing university can be possible! It may require changing universities and kicking up a fuss, but if you want it, take it. You deserve to try and achieve your dreams. Please don’t let anyone take that away from you. Especially if the person trying to rip apart your dreams is just an ignorant human being. You deserve so much better and you’re not alone, I promise.

 

Until next time, be kind to one another.

See you next time,

Bethany

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Is ‘Disabled’ Really an Offensive Word?

Hello, everybody!

For those who have asked, I am much better this week now that my medication has changed. Yay! Thank you for all your messages and support during this time. Now that my life is going back to normal, onwards and upwards, friends!

With that in mind, let’s discuss one of the latest ideas that have sent shockwaves through the disabled community. Earlier this week, it was announced that Clover Moore would like to outlaw the word, disabled. She is the Sydney Lord Mayor, in the City council. Later on, in this statement, she said that the word “will be as offensive as the N word.” The proposed new word is “Accessible Inclusion Seekers”. You can read more about this here and here, as well as all of the disabled communities’ reactions through this Twitter link.

I have so many thoughts about this, and to be honest most of them are problematic. However, I am trying to see this from both sides; so, let’s talk about the positives for a second. First off, it’s rare that disabilities have a conversation when it comes to city councils…so that’s cool. Also, someone is trying to help us, which can be quite rare too.

However, that help is thoroughly misguided. I don’t mean to be super negative, but I am against the outlawing. Partly because the word choice of seeker sounds terrible! It sounds like we are attention seekers. It adds to a large culture that believes that we are exaggerating our illnesses. This culture often claims not trying hard enough and only want the ‘benefits’. Seeker is the last term we need to be legally associated with us!

Also, who has the time to say, “I’m an access inclusive seeker?” It is such a time waster. More importantly what about those who have disabilities that affect their talking ability? It strips them of independence to talk about their own disability. In what universe is that fair? We don’t need another person to take away independence from us. Especially when it comes to something the majority of us don’t want.

The other reason I, and many others, are against this is why Moore wants to change the word. This idea was founded on the notion that ‘disabled’ is a bad word. This makes no sense. I will scream this until the day I die: there is nothing wrong with being disabled! It isn’t a dirty word! It is a part of me, it’s the same as me having blue eyes. Disabled isn’t offensive in any way. It’s like me calling you abled as an insult. Like how dare you have working body parts. It’s ridiculous and makes no sense. I have seen people compare disabled to the word ‘retard’ and base the offence off of that. However, they are two separate words. One has been used to describe and form parts of identity. The latter has been an extreme slur used for centuries to trap us and to bully. So, I’ll say it again, DISABLED IS NOT AN OFFENSIVE WORD. There is nothing wrong with us.

Now, here’s another issue with the premise: comparing disabled to the N word. Is an outrage. Now, I’m going to *metaphorically* tread carefully here. I am white and therefore have no idea what it is like to be a person of colour. However, the N-word is used to harm and as a form of bigotry, it will never be okay to use. Disabled is by no means anywhere near that level. Also, I don’t think someone who is white and knows very little about being a person of colour can be in charge of saying that anything is as offensive as the N word. She has no idea, and for that matter, she is an able-bodied person. Meaning she also has no idea what it is like to be disabled. Should people be allowed to make such big calls when they don’t know us and aren’t us?

I know the majority of this has been negative. However, I share all of this for a very important reason. Often people assume they know what’s best for us and go ahead doing that. However, it’s rare that anyone consults any disabled people! The truth is, we don’t need the word disabled to be banned. We need that same passion but towards real issues. Towards integration and acceptance; towards ramps and lifts. We need to be treated the same as anyone else, because shocker, we are! Spending millions to change this will lead likely to lead to more segregation. People are already confused with how to be around us – this will turn that flame into a fire. Ultimately, if you want to help us, great! But, please, please, please consult us before you do. We are smart and thoughtful and excited for a change. WE ARE USEFUL, please listen to us. That way we can make sure that the world gets better for us and future generations.

Thank you for reading. If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear it.

Have a great week! Be kind to others, be kind to yourself, see you in a week.

Bethany

Disabilities Don’t Stay the Same

Hello readers!

The last week has been one of the most difficult weeks I’ve had in a long time. For five days, I had been having a headache, and every day it got worse. I struggled to keep my eyes open and felt underneath my eyes swelling. Not only that, but I had blurry vision, and my hair started falling out, and I had even more leg weakness than usual. After three days, I worked out that all of this was because of medication. The weird thing was that I have been on this medication for almost a year and a half. I stopped being able to move and was stuck in bed for days, in an insane amount of pain. After two days of trying to get a hold of a doctor, I found out that the formula of the medication had been changed. Afterwards, the doctor took me off of them, allowing my body to revert back to normal.

This chaos reminded and inspired me to explain an almost controversial part of being disabled. Disabilities are in a constant state of flux. They are not written in stone, where everything remains the same. Every day is different and shifting. Now, if you have a disability you are most likely very aware of this. it’s common knowledge and a part of life. However, often abled people aren’t aware of this. When I tell them this, more times than not, I am not believed. Hence why I said it was almost controversial and why this is such an important topic.

What I mean by disabilities fluctuate is not that they can disappear (if it’s permanent). More so that one day I could walk for 100km, and the next I can’t even take three steps. One day, I can walk all around the house, the next I can’t get to the shower. One day, I can focus for hours and do almost a whole week of work and then I can barely write a sentence.

There have been many times that I explain these examples and people get it. But when it is no longer an example but a reality that’s when things change. People get annoyed that I have to take my chair with me to places. They roll their eyes and tut when I say that I can’t get up today. People often have the ability to make me feel guilty and anxious as they accuse me of not wanting to hang out with them.

The truth is, of course, I want to be with people and do fun things, but that doesn’t mean I can! If you have a friend who has a disability, please, I beg of you be patient with them. But more than that, please believe them when they say that they cannot do something. Never accuse us of lying even if you don’t understand. Ultimately, as annoying as it is for you, it is a hundred times more annoying for us. We would love to do everything, but it isn’t that simple for us.

To those who are patient and do believe is, without doubt, all I can say is thank you, you are such a blessing

Before I go, I have gained more support from all of you wonderful people. I just wanted to tell you that I’m really grateful for that, thank you, everybody. You are so kind and generous with your words! I can’t wait to see where this blog takes me and the disabled community.

See you all in a week!

Bethany

Disabilities Don’t Need to be Fixed!

Hello everyone!

This week I thought that I would do a follow on from last week’s post about Dr Phil and his opinions of disabilities. In that post, I touched on the notion that disabled people aren’t a chore, amongst a few other things. So today, I thought that I would expand on that and offer why my disability doesn’t need to be fixed.

A lot of people presume that having a disability is this horrific event that destroys everything good. I understand where people are coming from when they think that. People can’t imagine how life could be worth living again once a pivotal body part doesn’t work again. A shift that dramatic is huge and dramatic. It literally changes everything, and you have to relearn how to live your life in a way you never expected to. That is overwhelming and terrifying. Not to mention, most people are only aware of disabled people through books and movies. These are often inaccurate portrayals of reality. The disabled person is depressed and never leaves the house and appears to have no future. That image is hard enough to take when you know it’s not true. Of course, those who don’t know much about disabled people believe it. All of this and more is why people often tell me a million “solutions” to my disability.

I’m sure that 99% of the time these ‘fixes’ are out of care and love. However, whilst all of what I have said is true it is not the only aspects of disabilities to consider. For example, all of that change means that you have the ability to learn and grow. Having a disability introduces you to a whole new way of looking at the world. It allows you to meet people who are with you in this amazing community. You get to push barriers and aim for change; you get to find a unique purpose and stand out in that knowledge. See being disabled is so much more than having pain and injured body parts. It’s more than people not understanding and ablest actions.

Being disabled, at least to me, is about empowerment. 

It’s about the freedom to be who I am. Part of that identity is a girl whose legs don’t work and because of that, I’m on a mission. That mission is to raise awareness to my community, it’s to show that we are the same as all the abled people in the world. It is to make the world more accessible. There is a future generation that could live a more accepting, accessible life if things change. I get to add to that change and know that I get to help. It is to help those who feel like there’s no hope, realise that there is so much. Hope is always around; it just may not be where you expect it. I can smash the glass ceilings and change the world. I can’t achieve all of that by myself it takes so many people working together in my community. However, the fact that I can try and add a little bit feels amazing.

Ultimately, no matter what type of disability one has there is nothing wrong with it. People with disabilities are a bright force who are living our lives the way we want. If we’re happy, we don’t need to be fixed. Life will always through curveballs. But sometimes they can be the best thing that ever happens to you, even if it looks horrible at the beginning.

If I could summarise this post into one sentence, it would be this. Disabilities don’t need to be fixed because there is nothing wrong with us or our identity! No matter what I will always be proud to be disabled!

See you next Thursday! Remember to be kind to yourself and those around you.

Bethany

Dear Dr Phil, I am not a burden because I have a disability.

Hey everyone,

Let’s talk about Dr Phil. Now I’ll be honest, I love the show. My sister and I have binged the show many times. For years it was our sit in pyjamas and order pizza night. But there is an issue with someone who has that big of a platform. That is that one has to be beyond careful in what you say. However, a few weeks ago, Dr Phil landed himself in hot water after comments he made about a couple who were dating. One was a quadriplegic and his girlfriend was able-bodied. Dr Phil said, “You’re a young, single, attractive female. Out of all the people that you can choose, why choose someone in a wheelchair?” Later in the show, he said, “[you] can be his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can’t be both… It won’t work, 100 out of 100 times this won’t work.” When I first heard about this my instant response was anger and disgust, along with any others. However, the disabled community responded with a smile and a heck of a lot of sass. The hashtag #100outof100 was born. Disabled people shared photos and stories of their relationship when one member is disabled and the other isn’t.

Now that it has been a couple of weeks, the chaos from it has simmered down and I feel like I can finally comment. You see, Dr Phil’s judgement on disabled relationships is quite wrong. I can understand why one may think the same as Dr Phil, especially if they have never met a disabled person. The idea of dating one us may seem daunting and difficult. But there are three huge points that Dr Phil has failed to acknowledge.

1. Disabled people are adaptors.

Adapting is what we do, and we are good at it. We aren’t helpless beings who can’t do anything. Yeah, okay we may need help with certain things but so does anyone you will ever date. I’m single right now and I’m living a good life. When the day comes where I do decide to date someone, I will still have a great life. Yes, whoever I’m dating may need to push me sometimes, or catch me when I fall but that isn’t a big deal. I will have to help him do things too because that is what having a relationship with people is. People with disabilities have already learnt and continue to learn what we need to for a full life. We adapt with our disability and if someone who’s dating me won’t adapt that little bit too, then are they worth dating?

2. Disabilities aren’t a burden or a chore.

Alright, so this one tends to rub people up the wrong way. No one wants to admit that there may be a tiny part of them that thinks of disabilities as a type of burden. However, let’s be honest, a lot of people do. I’m not saying this to make you feel bad, I’m saying it because it’s honest and we can’t deal with something that we’re hiding from. Again, I understand why those who don’t know much about disabilities may believe that we could be a burden, but we’re not.

There is nothing wrong with having a disability. Sure, it can be irritating not being able to do things, but no matter who you are there will always be things you can’t do. But there is more to disabilities than that. There is a whole community that supports one another and builds each other up. We fight to show the world love and make the earth better for us and future generations. We get to have a unique stance on the world that most don’t get to see or be a part of. Often that stance can reveal a lot of negative aspects about the world, but it often shows us true beauty. Through this way of the world, I get to see real struggles and earth-shattering triumphs. Through knowing all the crappiness, I get to truly understand the goodness. It’s turned me into an optimist and I now know that there’s a reason for everything. The truth is, being a part of this community or knowing us, opens eyes to the world. You get to learn about a whole new group of people you may never have discovered before. You get to grow as a person and see everything in a new, exciting way. How can that ever be a bad thing? That’s why I say disabilities aren’t a chore, they shape us and others to be better. They show the world that there is nothing wrong with us and that we are pioneers for a change! One day, that change will happen, and we will be accepted for being us, and I am excited.

3. Love conquers all

Disabilities are never expected; they happen to a person out of nowhere and you have to deal with it. One day you wake up and disability is around. May it be from an accident, birth or infection, or a hundred other things it exists and is a reality that needs to be faced. What happens if somehow Dr Phil’s wife becomes disabled? What does he do then? Leave her? Run away? Divorce? He could do any of those things, but would he? No matter what he loves his wife. On their wedding day, they said “In sickness and in health.” So, if all of that is true, wouldn’t he stay and make it work? Above all else, the love he has for his wife, and the love thousands of people have for their disabled partner surpasses the difficulty of disabilities. Ultimately, love is a powerful force and if we let it, it can and will change your life. Disabilities are no exception to this rule!

Dating is complicated, that’s always going to be true. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t happen or that they’re doomed to fail just because my legs don’t work as well as others. Instead, we get to use my difference to have a stronger and deeper relationship.

I don’t know if I will still binge-watch Dr Phil anymore, but what I do know is that outside of this he has helped many people. For that, I am grateful. I hope that he can learn from this and realise that what he believes isn’t accurate, but if not, that’s his burden to bear. If you have felt similar to Dr Phil, please don’t beat yourself up! But please try to learn and grow from it.

Until next week, try to be kind to yourself and one another.

I love you all,

Bethany.

The Hidden Loneliness in Disabilities

Hello everybody!

My life is finally returning to a somewhat state of normalcy, how exciting! My university assignments are in full swing, and I have a little more time for writing again! I’m not gonna lie, the extreme introvert inside me is doing happy dances for this time. I get to relax and be in my own space without having to entertain everybody around me. It sounds fantastic! However, saying all of that, there is a small part of me that isn’t looking forward to all this alone time. See, for a few days, or even a few weeks it will be amazing. It will feel like I am me again, and my life is great. But not too long after that the joy will end. Deep-planted loneliness will replace it. I’m not trying to be super dramatic, I’m being realistic. As much as I try to pretend it’s not real, extreme levels of loneliness often come with disabilities. For the last two years, I would be lucky to see a single person that doesn’t live with me, in a month. The longest I have gone without being with friends has been as long as four months. After a while of being alone, depression kicks in. It becomes a vicious cycle of wanting to be less lonely but being too depressed to go meet people.

For the disabled community, the loneliness rates are SO high. As a result, so are depression and anxiety. In 2018, a survey in the UK revealed that 85% of disabled people feel lonely almost every day. It’s a horrible battle that can often feel as if there is no way out of.

So, why does this loneliness even start? I hear you ask, and to that, I say a few reasons.

Sometimes it is a simple fact that our bodies cannot handle leaving the house. Living in chronic pain often results in complete exhaustion. My physiotherapist once said, “People with Cerebral Palsy use 200% more muscle power in everyday tasks than the average abled person.” That includes: walking, talking, work, university, and even breathing. As I’m sure you can imagine all of that is pretty tiring. So, some days, I can’t get out of bed, and sometimes that day turns into weeks.

Not only does pain make it hard for us to interact with friends and go outside, but transport also plays a big part too. On the days where we can function and want to integrate with the world, we are often stuck. To get anywhere with my chair, I can take, three things: taxis, buses, and trains. Unfortunately Uber is often risky as there is never a guarantee that my chair will fit on the car. (Yes, even with Uber Assist). Taxi’s do work, at least they do where I live. You can select a maxi-cab which are designed for wheelchairs, it’s fab. The issue is that it is very expensive and well, I cannot afford that. They charged me $24 for a 1.9km car journey, (it’s a four-minute drive). So, this brings me to trains and buses. Often times, this can work. However, I have gone to catch a train or bus many times only to realise that the ramp isn’t available somehow. It’s very stressful and anxiety producing. Usually, I have to plan a trip days in advance and call up the bus services to tell them I will need the ramp. On top of this, there are no guarantees that wherever we go is accessible. We can get stuck outside, or can’t get to the bathroom, or there’s not enough space. It’s rare you can have any spontaneity in the whole process. So, if I’m having a good day, and would like to be outside I often end up going for a walk (or more accurately, a wheel) by myself. This, of course, can be an amazing time but doesn’t help to take away the horrible loneliness.

The other thing I’ve noticed through my life, and especially in the last two years, is how a disability can take its toll on a friendship. I have three friends in my life, one of them lives the other side of the world, so that leaves two somewhat near me. I used to have more, I would go to events and hang out with everyone that I could. I would ignore the fact that my body was screaming at me to stop. I would push through the pain and pretend I didn’t notice the swelling of my limbs. I would get so bad that I would almost vomit and pass out from exhaustion. But hey, I had friends, I got to hang out with people. Who cares that I was destroying my body from the inside out and my mental health was at it’s lowest?

But then, as you know my body got sick of this and went downhill. I stopped doing this crazy routine and actually started taking care of myself. However, that meant that my “friends” no longer had time for me. They stopped responding to texts and would get angry if I couldn’t get out of bed the day that they wanted me too. Eventually, they began to unfollow me on Facebook and Instagram, and I had become a hermit in my own house. The two that have stuck by me (that live in my country), I rarely see. One of them had her own chronic illness issues was in a similar boat to me. The other lives a while away so I don’t see her all that often. However, I am so grateful for these two, they have stuck by me and never get angry when I can’t do plans. Recently, I have seen them more because I moved closer to one friend and my other friend’s illness has gotten better. It’s amazing, yet, as I said in beginning I am still nervous about the next little while.

The truth is, loneliness is a horrible almost disease that we all go through at some point. It isolates us and tries to destroy us. It seems that most people are unaware of this reality that thousands of disabled people face. However, I hope that if we bring light to this, we can create change. Hopefully, the loneliness will go down and happiness will skyrocket! Let’s try and be there for those who need it (even if that’s yourself)! Let’s be kind to one another, and love each other.

If you are disabled and are struggling with loneliness, here are some tips that have helped me.

1) Joining internet communities! This can be disability support groups or something you’re interested in.


For me, I have joined Nerdfighteria communities, writer groups, and followed a large amount of the disabled community on Twitter.

2) Try to complete one task a day.


This can be anything you want. If you can, let it be something that may help you in the future. E.g. Write that book to become an author. Read about that job you want and learn. Draw that picture. Do the thing that gives you joy!

3) Look up local events that aren’t too expensive.

Get a family member to join or call up the bus service and go by yourself. Join that cooking class, go to that library event, check out that club and see if you get along with anyone.

I know it’s hard, but you can do it! Take it one day at a time and breathe. Do me a favour though, try to not fall into the trap that you aren’t good enough. You are and you’re alive, so go do amazing things and live for yourself! It will be okay, and if your brain says it won’t be, your brain is lying to you, I promise!

I cannot wait for a better future!

See you all in a week!

Bethany

Disabilities are being Abused by Non-Disabled People for Personal Gain

Hello everybody!

I don’t know about you guys, but my last week has been crazy. My sister got married, and I was a bridesmaid. However, five days before the wedding, the venue had a fire and had to cancel on her. We had to plan a wedding in a day, whilst family from other sides of the world arrived. Anyway, by some miracle, the wedding happened, and all is well! Now my sister is on her honeymoon in France, having an amazing time.

Even though the wonders of Paris were a dream come true, one thing put a damper on the whole experience. There were two deaf tourists who were lost. She went over to offer them help, after all, she knows some of the struggles of being disabled through me. However, she realised that these people were pick pocketers and not deaf at all.

Their use of faking a disability in order to steal off people appalled me. However, what made it worse was that it comes off of the back of the American college scandal.

For those who aren’t aware of this, people have been using bribes to ace college admissions tests. One of the ways people were doing this was by pretending to be disabled. This way they could be put in a private room with more time as the Procter fed these students the answers. If you want to read more, you can here, and here. Obviously, this whole scandal is terrible for a myriad of reasons. Not only is it horrible and unfair to the other students to bribe acceptance; it is also unfair for the disabled community.

Obviously, this whole scandal is terrible for a myriad of reasons. Not only is it horrible and unfair to the other students to bribe acceptance; it is also unfair for the disabled community.

Both of these events renewed my fire to make a noise and have our voices heard. The people who partake in these ruses are hypocritical and it breaks my heart. Doing these tasks is horrible on its own but to use and abuse disabilities to do so adds disgust to the whole thing. These people are exploiting a minority that they most likely won’t even attempt to help when their scam is over. No, once they’ve benefitted from our difficulties, who cares that we actually do have to live with them, right?

The truth is, people who do this are distracting the public and those in power from the real issues. No one sees the struggles we face when these stories come out. Instead, everyone focuses on the crime committed, and more often than not they barely acknowledge the use of disabilities. Many people all across the disabled community have had issues with schooling. When we ask for help with exams, we have to jump through a hundred hoops to get it. Often after we do what’s required, we’re not believed anyway. The fact that these people can bribe to get into exam conditions that we need and declined for despite medical evidence is horrid. For years we have been screaming for change and very few have listened and now this happens. It’s not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last. However, I vote that we as a human race use this and learn. Instead of seeing the worst, let’s make a point to learn from people with real disabilities. Let’s listen with an open mind and try to not abuse our struggles for personal gain. Let’s try to make the world just a bit better for thousands around us.

If you are interested in where to start and how to listen, this week there was a viral Twitter hashtag this week called #AbledsAreWeird. This isn’t to claim all able-bodied people are weird or to cause offence. It is merely to say that some experiences we have had are horrible and disgusting. Feel free to click the link.

Please be kind to one another and to yourself, I will see you in a week! Feel free to share any experiences as a disabled person that you think should be learned from!

Bethany