Gretchen Maune, 35, activist, blind, Columbia, MO (originally from Blue Springs, MO.)
I suddenly went blind at 24, and what I discovered surprised me. No longer being able to perceive my world through sight certainly wasn't easy, but it wasn't the hardest part. Other people's misconceptions; how they judged my abilities and desires when they saw my disability was what I found the most disabling.
While I've spent time working on many issues, like healthcare access, affordable housing, reproductive choice, and fighting predatory lenders, I have consistently found myself forced back to fighting for accessibility and disability justice. I've worked numerous hours on my own and with other awesome folks in groups like the Mid-Missouri Advocacy Coalition, the American Council of the Blind, the Mid-Missouri Web Accessibility MeetUp, and on the City of Columbia Disabilities Commission. When you have to advocate for your right to go places, for housing that works for you, to be included in programs, in classes, in conferences, even in social gatherings-- you get distracted by that. I want to spend my time and energy fighting for causes I care about, but sometimes it's a fight in itself just to get to a meeting or rally, or get materials in a format that I can read.
People with disabilities are 20% of the population, but our rights, and our desires get overlooked; not by everyone, but by too many and too often. I believe the future is accessible, but I know we must keep educating and advocating to get there.