Did you know July is Disability Pride Month? A disability is not limited to a physical or permanent impairment. The most common disabilities range from ADHD to head injuries—and even pregnancy is classified as a temporary disability.
As an organization that works to provide a better future for individuals with autism and other neurodiversities by building a community of pride, purpose and endless possibilities, we know how important it is to find pride and strength in what makes us different. Here at First Place, we’ll be celebrating diverse members of our supportive community throughout the month with their personal stories of triumph.
To begin National Disability Pride Month, First Place–Phoenix Human Resources Manager Sarah Marchese shares her story of living with glaucoma:
At just a few days old, I was rushed into eye surgery. Had the doctor not caught it, I would be blind today. Another surgery would follow a year later—and three more between 2008 and 2013. I was born with glaucoma, which left me blind in the left eye; the right eye isn’t 100% either. I started using eyedrops daily at age 3 and had thick coke-bottle glasses. I can’t go to an optometrist or even a regular ophthalmologist; I’ve had to seek out board-certified glaucoma specialists my whole life.
In grade school, I had to sit in the front of the classroom because even with thick glasses I couldn’t see that well. All through school (even in college), I endured some pretty harsh teasing—from people asking me how many fingers they were holding up to being called “Cyclops.”
What was even sadder was that I wasn’t taught to be proud of what made me different. But that never stopped me from trying.
Like a lot of people with a disability, I am limited in certain activities. I lack depth perception. I go down steps slowly, afraid that I’m going to miss one and fall. However, put me in skis and push me down a slope and I’ll have no problem going off a jump. I’m unable to obtain a driver’s license, but I do know how to operate a vehicle. I played on sports teams in school, even though I was bad at aiming. Oh, and stand behind me if we’re playing darts…you’ve been warned!
As an adult, I’ve grown ever prouder of my disability. While it makes me different, and I can tell with aging that it’s getting worse—I may be blind one day—at least I have spent my life not allowing my challenges to hold me back.