NLCMH Peer Support Specialist Takes 3rd Place in Essay Contest

Congratulations to Michigan Protection and Advocacy 2008 Advocacy Essay Contest Third Place Winner Terri R. Stonecipher, for her essay: I’m not handicapped, I have a “disABILITY.” Her writing is inspiring! We have reproduced it here with her permission:

I’m not handicapped, I have a “disABILITY” by Terri R. Stonecipher

When I get up in the morning and look into the mirror, I don’t see a person with a disability; I see me! I see a person who is like everyone else. I have feelings, dreams, goals, and desires – everything except for the label of being disabled, placed there by others, not by me.

If I could say only one thing to the rest of the world around me, it would be for them to see me for my ABILITIES and not be close-minded by my disABILITIES. I’m not asking for a handout, or even for you to feel sorry for me. I’m just asking that you treat me the same way you would want to be treated. If you’re not sure what to do, or say, why not just ask me. Just because I may be different than you, or anyone you’ve ever come in contact with.

I am deaf, and I have a mental disability that I have to deal with. I wasn’t born deaf. I became deaf at the age of 36. There is no medical cure for me. The tiny bones in my ears have hardened and don’t work. I wear hearing aids to alert me to sounds, but other than that, I lip-read. So if you were to approach me, I would request that you always face me when you are talking.

I have a wonderful employer, “Northern Lakes Community Mental Health” who has always gotten me an interpreter for meetings, seminars, and trainings. They have never denied me that request.

My job is to talk with clients, who also have a disability. I assist them in becoming independent and to be productive citizens in their own community. I do all that without an interpreter as I can lip-read my clients. They don’t seem to mind at all that I am what you might call “a little different” or “disabled.”

I really hate the word “handicapped” as I don’t see myself that way. It is just a label that’s been placed there on me. Like I said in the beginning, I prefer the label of “disABILITY” emphasizing my “abilities,” the things I can do without barriers.

The more people know about the barriers, the more those barriers could be removed. It starts with one person. Are you that person?