November 2023 in Review

“Like many other months since I became Ms. Wheelchair Ohio, November flew by but was very busy.

I had the pleasure of speaking to city of Dayton firefighter and police officer recruits at Community Orientation Day, held at the Suzy Bassani Theater Off Third – Dayton Metro Library, as a representative of Ms. Wheelchair Ohio and The Access Center, where I recently gained employment as an Independent Living Specialist. The objective of my speech was to educate future first responders on how to safely interact with people with disabilities. The tips I shared included the fact that first responders should always introduce themselves and explain the job that they are there to do to help those with disabilities, and people in general for that matter, feel informed and safer in emergency situations. I also shared the fact that first responders should never assume the kind of help a person with a disability might need. They should always ask before offering assistance. Moreover, I advised them to not make assumptions about anyone’s cognitive and/or physical ability. I told them that it is best not to make assumptions about anything, rather they should try to be empathetic and encourage clear and concise communication. The main thing that I hope they take away from my training is that empathy goes a long way. What is just another call or a regular day at the office for them can be very scary for those that they are helping, especially people with disabilities, but we deserve to be treated with the same respect as anyone else. I hope that in the future if there is something that those first responders do not know about a person with the disability that they will ask because, when it comes down to it, helping people with disabilities, just like helping anyone else, starts with clear and respectful communication.

I attended a meeting of the Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee after my speech. There was no guest speaker at the meeting so the committee was able to plan ahead a bit for the year 2024, and all I can say is if only a third of what the other advocates on the committee and myself hope to accomplish in 2024 comes to fruition, then the disability community in Ohio has a very bright future.

A few days later, I had the awesome opportunity to take an educational training called Elevatus. The Elevatus training I took was a three-day online training about how to teach seminars regarding sexuality and healthy relationships to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, caregivers or other staff who work with individuals, as well as their parents. As a woman with a developmental disability and as someone who has facilitated a support group for women with intellectual disabilities in the past, I have a unique understanding of the lack of sexuality education available for people with disabilities and why sexuality education is needed. I was very nervous yet very excited to take the training. My mother and father did not discuss sexuality or relationships with me while I was growing up. I feared being judged by others who took Elevatus due to my lack of knowledge. Fortunately, that was not the case at all. By the end of the first day, I felt a kinship and camaraderie with my Elevatus cohort. I never felt judged in the training. Everyone was kind. I heard repeatedly throughout the training that my perspective was needed and very much appreciated. I am confident that I will stay in touch with my cohort from here on out. More importantly, I now feel so much more educated regarding sexuality and healthy relationships. I am excited to facilitate workshops for people with disabilities, their parents, and the staff who work with them. The Greene County Board of Developmental Disabilities was kind enough to pay for me to take Elevatus in hopes that I would help them to facilitate such workshops. With that being said, on January 16th, GCBDD is hosting an online workshop geared toward parents of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities about the importance of sexuality education for their adult children. I have already been asked to co-facilitate the workshop and am excited to do so. Learn more about Elevatus training here.

The weekend following Elevatus, I went to the annual holiday and craft show held at Montgomery County Fairgrounds. I have attended the craft show for the last three years to sell my books. I was excited to have a new book to sell this year. I am pleased to say that the craft show did not disappoint. I sold 16 books in one day. While 16 may not seem like a lot, for one day of sales it is actually pretty good. Aside from my new book, Cherish: A New Kind of Unicorn, I sold the most copies of The Magic Within. This is not surprising because The Magic Within is my best-selling book. The sales at the craft shows just reinforced the fact that I need to work on a sequel. I already have a lot of ideas and have written down some notes. I hope to have the sequel finished within the next year and a half to two years. I have more craft shows and a book signing coming up in December. While I am excited to get the word out about my books, I am a little nervous about how things are going to turn out. Despite my nerves, I am very hopeful.

I also had the opportunity to speak to the Xenia Rotary Club about my books, my platform, Ms. Wheelchair Ohio, and Ms. Wheelchair America. I honestly was not sure how my speech would go over with the Rotary Club, but I am pleased to say it went well. The members of the rotary club seemed engaged and asked quite a few questions about me and my writing process. I am also very happy and flattered to say that the Rotary Club decided to make a donation to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in my name to help ensure that children in Greene County have access to books.

Please continue to read the blog as I continue my reign as Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2023. Thank you so much for your support.”