December 4th will mark three years since I have been able to feel his warm embrace, see his smile, or seek advice from him. After living with advanced Multiple sclerosis (MS) for over 20 years my father, Brad Saul, lost the battle for his life due to this disease.
My father was diagnosed with MS before I was born, and as a result, I never had the opportunity to see him walk. This was always a difficult reality for me as a child; I never thought it was fair that my friends were able to play catch with their dads or that they could go anyplace without worrying whether they could get in because of accessibility issues. My parents, especially my mom, always did her best ensure that my siblings and I never wanted for anything, but I still always felt a small void in my heart that was engendered by the circumstances of my father’s disability.
After my dad passed away, I realized that I could either let my sadness and the experiences with my father’s disability define me, or I could use my pain as a catalyst for change, thus empowering me to found We Are Able. We Are Able, a 501(c)3, works to raise awareness for people with disabilities through educating people on proper disability etiquette, engaging in a dialogue about the difference between offering sympathy and offering empathy, and taking action on accessibility issues facing communities. While you can participate in a We Are Able program at any point throughout the year, there is an annual campaign that occurs in early December, in honor of December 3rd being the International Day for People with Disabilities.
Over the years, the We Are Able movement has reached over 1,000 participants from 20 different K-12 schools through our student-led curriculum that engages youth in solidarity, as they work to expand their empathy for others and learn the mindfulness practice of proper disability etiquette. The curriculum has also been offered to companies via a “Manager Tool-Kit,” designed to provide a corporate learning experience on this topic for employees and enhance their team building skills.
Now, We Are Able is seeking to expand to college campuses in order to advocate for greater accessibility and inclusion in postsecondary education settings. As we continue to grow this movement, we are actively searching for passionate college students to carry forward our mission as We Are Able College Ambassadors. This involves setting up a We Are Able club at your college or university, engaging your campus community in the We Are Able training, and activating 1-3 major activist initiatives per year. If you are interested in being a part of this journey, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or download the curriculum by going to WeAble.org and clicking on “The Campaign” . A fully empowered populace can be the ambassadors of the change they want to see. We Are Able seeks to be the movement that empowers people to realize that we are all equals and we are all able to be the change we want to see in the world.