A few years ago I didn’t actually realized until now but I used to not accept myself the way I was born. I thought that having Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy was always going to be an obstacle in my life no matter how hard I try. Finishing a career to me seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. It seemed to me impossible to one day live on my own and pay others to help me with my everyday tasks. I thought there was no way I could live without the help of my amazing family. Even on my Facebook I wouldn’t put pictures of myself because I was sitting in a wheelchair.
Accepting myself was very difficult, but eventually I did it. Mainly this was thanks to a great experience that I had in the summer of 2010. That year I attended the Muscular Dystrophy Association camp for the first time. It was a week long summer camp for kids with very similar disabilities to mine. For that week I was paired up with someone able- bodied to help me with my daily tasks. To be honest I didn’t really felt like going to that camp at all. Having an stranger help me did not sound it fun. The whole idea of going away from my family for a week terrified me.
Today i’m glad I did took the chance to attend that camp because after that week I wasn’t the same person anymore. I became a much wiser one and my perception in the way I view my disability changed forever and for the better. At the summer camp, I saw many kids that just by interacting with them or looking at them interact with others inspired me. All of them were happy with who they are. That influenced me to change in a way but in particularly a really special unique symbol changed me. Throughout the week I kept on seeing that symbol. I would see people at the camp with tattoos of the symbol. A couple of the kids at camp had the symbol in shirts and bracelets. That symbol was similar to the original wheelchair logo but instead of having a wheel it had a heart. The moment I saw it I thought it was an awesome creative symbol. Once I found out the meaning of it, I fall even more in love with it.
In the middle of the week Stevie Hopkins the co-founder of the symbol visited the camp. Apparently he had gone to that camp in the past. The camp director gather up in a circle the older kids at the camp. In the middle of the circle Stevie gave a great speech that explained the powerful meaning of the symbol. He told us that it is a symbol of acceptance. It encourages society to accept people with disabilities and treat them equally. On the other hand, this symbol encourages people with disabilities to accept their challenges and even embrace them. By replacing the wheel with a heart, the stigma of the wheelchair is also removed, and it can be a symbol for people with any disability or impairment. It represents the person, not society’s perception of their lack in physical abilities. The symbol is an attitude and a lifestyle. It’s accepting one’s abilities and rallying around that diversity and turning it into strength. It’s loving and living life to the fullest no matter who you are, how many years you live, what you look like, and what you can or cannot do.
Stevie Hopkins then briefly explained how the symbol was created. Here is a summary of his explanation:
The symbol was created by his sister Annie Hopkins. She drew this symbol for a dorm t-shirt at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Later on, she got a tattoo of the symbol and everyone loved the tattoo. Later, they secured the legal rights to the wheelchair heart symbol and incorporated a company named 3E Love, LLC and begun selling t-shirts as a means to pay the startup costs. Apperantly, his sister was pretty outgoing and she loved life despite her physical conditions. She wanted to change the way everyone view a disability and to have others accept those with disabilities as equals. To her a disability did not meant anything and she wanted everyone to believe that as well. Unfortunately in January 20th, 2009 a devastating event took place. Annie passed away due to complications from a feeding tube placement.
The powerful meaning of the symbol encouraged me to love life despite of my physical circumstances. Most importantly, I accepted myself as equal to everyone able-bodied. Just like everyone else I have dreams and one of those is to finish a career. Honestly, I thought that due to my disability that wasn’t going to be possible. However, Stevie Hopkins and Annie proved to me that obtaining a degree with a disability is possible. Therefore, they became one of my motivations to not let my disability stop me from doing anything and achieving all my goals. Now, I want to prove that I am no different than anyone able-bodied by graduating from college and even be able to get a place to live on my own one day and hiring others to help me.
Today January 20th the international day of acceptance is celebrated in honor to Annie Hopkins. It has been eight years since she passed away and I never even got the chance to meet her. However, the message that she wanted to spread across the world changed my life and improved it for the better. I would like to thank her today for creating a symbol with such powerful meaning that changed my life and helped me become a much wiser disabled person. I’ve embrace my disability and I don’t regret it at all. I will always love my life despite of my physical circumstances.
I LOVE LIFE.♿👌😍👯👩👱🍺👍🎧 🏈⚽🍕🍣🍔☕🌄🌈🎂🎓🎬🎢