Hello, and welcome to Roll a Mile on my Wheels. This blog for my company, 6 Wheels Consulting, will have a variety of purposes and chronicle many things. First, I will use this forum to keep you connected and aware of what we are up to at 6 Wheels Consulting including projects we’re working on or conferences we are attending or presenting at. Second, I want to use this blog to share interesting things that are going on around the disability community, which I hope will spark a dialogue amongst all of us to discuss the issues facing this group. Lastly, I want this blog to be an extension of the disability community and a place where everyone feels safe to express their views.
Enough about the blog, let me tell you who I am and why I started 6 Wheels Consulting. My name is Matthew Shapiro. I am 24 years old and live in Richmond, Virginia. At birth I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and by the time I was around the age of three or four I was using a wheelchair to help me get around. Throughout my childhood I didn’t view my disability as anything more then something that made me less mobile. It wasn’t something that I thought was going to guide me, I just thought it was a part of me.
This mindset all changed in the summer of 2007 when I participated in the Virginia Youth Leadership Forum. This is a summer program for high school juniors and seniors with disabilities where you learn about disability History, self-determination, independent living skills, and develop a plan for your future. Ironically, before this event I thought I didn’t need it. I thought I was independent enough and self-sufficient enough to not have to attend this event. According to my mom, I can’t remember this happening exactly this way, but I refused to say goodbye to her when she dropped me off for the week of the forum.
In hindsight I can’t thank her enough for “forcing me” to attend YLF. That experience really opened my eyes to the sense of community that surrounds people with disabilities. It really was the first time where I was around other people with disabilities and realized that it was okay to be different. That experience also taught me something else. It gave me the path forward in life to know what I wanted to do. I wanted to do some level of disability work. From that point on I immersed myself in other youth and disability related activities. I became involved in the Virginia Department of Education’s I’m Determined Project where I again participated and later mentored other youth regarding self-advocacy and self-determination skills. I began going to meetings to advocate on issues on the local, state, and national levels, with the hopes of helping people with disabilities. I also began appearing on panels discussing disability related topics at state and national conferences.
Fast forward to my college years. I attended Virginia Commonwealth University where I originally thought I’d be majoring in journalism with the hope of being a sportswriter. However, as the second semester of my sophomore year continued I didn’t feel like I was doing what I was meant to do, so I switched my major to Interdisciplinary Studies to focus on classes that could help me with my disability work. As my college years moved forward I continued to get more involved with youth programs and branched out to other policy avenues. I even had the privilege of interning in the White House for the Obama administration where I focused on disability issues. I graduated from VCU in the fall of 2013 with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Bachelor of Science in Sociology with a minor in Psychology.
About a year out of college I had had numerous job interviews, but either nothing was offered to me or it was something that I didn’t think I could really get behind. Because of this I decided to take my strengths of helping people, my ability to talk, and my understanding of disability issues and try and turn it into a business. This is how 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC was born. 6 Wheels Consulting is an organization that strives to work with organizations of any type to educate them, through engaging public speaking programs and dynamic consulting services about the challenges that face the disability community.
In closing again I want to say welcome to this journey. Thank you for reading and I hope you’re ready to tag along for the ride.