Working with the I’m Determined Parent Summit

For several summers I have had the privilege of participating in I’m Determined Youth Summit at JMU.   This has become one of the highlights of my year.  This year, however, I got to experience a new unique twist on the summit by working with the parents. For me, working with parents is always a tremendous thrill. Why? Because I can be an example for both the parents and their children.   Specifically, parents with children who have special needs often wonder if their child can live independently, attend college or achieve a dream they may have.   For some parents the fear of the unknown diminishes their ability to see their child’s full potential.   While working with parents I try to help them realize that dreams can be accomplished through accommodations and supports. This year I was able to reach parents in ways that I have not been able to do before at previous summits.   How did I do this?

 

             First, I was able to serve as a vendor at the resource fair. This was an opportunity for me to explain, not only to the parents, but also to my fellow vendors what we do at 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC.   This was also a great way for me to initially meet the students and their parents and start to make some connections with them.

 

             Next, I was tabbed as an expert (I know I felt really special) on self-determination, youth transition, and entrepreneurship.   The experts were asked to sit at tables and address questions from parents relating to their topics. I was able to have parents come join me and ask questions about to how they could help their son or daughter.   I love these one-on-one interactions because I can really help parents understand that they don’t have to have that fear that I previously mentioned. These are the interactions that truly make me enjoy my work.   If I can help one parent feel more comfortable and not worry so much, I have done my job.

 

             In addition, my mom and I had the privilege of serving on a youth/parent panel where we discussed and gave tips about how to refuel in your advocacy journey.   One of the things that I find most important about refueling, and this could be for both parents and students, is that you must allow time for yourself to do things that you enjoy. For me that could be something as simple as getting caught up on the latest TV shows or hanging out with friends. These types of activities help you maintain a level of centeredness. 

 

 I think for parents with young people with special needs one of the other most important things they can do, even though it can be tremendously difficult, is to learn to give your son or daughter freedom to make their own decisions and to trust of those decisions.   I am so grateful for my parents’ willingness to let me be free and experience different things. For example, they allow my friends to drive our van so that I can spend time with my friends outside of the house.   These choices have allowed me to grow and become independent both physically and in my decision-making. I hope my mom and I conveyed that message during our time on the panel.

 

             I learned a lot from the different perspective of working with parents at this year’s summit.   Mainly, the parents know how to get down when there is alcohol and dancing involved.   Seriously though, I was grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences with the parents and I hope they took as much out of it from me as I did from them.

 

            I want to thank Dana Yarbrough from the VCU Center for Family Involvement for allowing me to be a part of the parent’s summit and I hope I get the chance to return again in the future.

 

             As always stay connected to us on social media and be on the lookout for new and exciting updates from 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC.

 PHOTO: Matthew sitting behind his 6 Wheels Consulting table At the resource fair at the I'm Determined Summit at JMU.

PHOTO: Matthew sitting behind his 6 Wheels Consulting table At the resource fair at the I'm Determined Summit at JMU.

Back to the No Barriers Summit

Recently, I got to experience one of the highlights of my year as I returned to the No Barriers Summit.   This year’s summit took place in Copper Mountain, Colorado from July 23 through the 25.   As our time to leave was approaching I couldn’t help but reflect on the life-changing experience that occurred for me at this event last year.  It truly reshaped how I feel about getting out of my comfort zone and I was pushing to build off of that experience this go around.   I did just that.

             Joining me once again on this amazing journey was my mom and my three friends Kari, Keri, and Timmy.   Tagging along with us this year was my dad.   I was so excited to have him there to experience all of the incredible things that the summit provides the participants.   He got to see me do some remarkable activities.

             On the first day of the summit I participated in a session around neuro movement.   Neuro Movement is the practice of retraining your brain on how your body works through small social movements.   The sessions made me feel so good and taught me about dealing with pain.   I enjoyed this session so much that I went back several times during my downtime throughout the week and had more one-on-one sessions done.   I definitely plan on trying to continue this treatment.  

While at the summit I also had the chance to try archery again.   This is an activity that I’ve picked up recently here at home but I wanted to continue to try and develop my skills with this activity.   We were out there for quite a long time as we shot for three hours.   I can’t shoot an arrow the typical way, so I have to use my mouth to help drawback and fire it.   I started off the day pretty awesome by hitting several of my first few targets.   As the day progressed I started dealing with fatigue and was not as accurate with my shots.   Even though I was getting slightly frustrated I kept trying to improve.   I would hit some targets here and there, but overall I just enjoyed the experience.  

As the session was coming to a close they allowed each of us fire a crossbow.   The power behind this bow was absolutely incredible.   It felt so exhilarating to fire that weapon.   One of the nice features of the bow was that it had a laser site that made it easy for aiming.  I was able to pop a balloon that was placed on the target with my second shot.  I felt like Rambo.   During this whole event my dad was grinning ear to ear seeing what I was accomplishing with a bow and arrow.   It was great to have him see me doing that.

 Later that day Timmy and I ventured over to the aquatic center to participate in a scuba seminar.   I have never been scuba diving before. This was probably the most fun thing I did at the summit this year.  Every year when I go to No Barriers I always try to do at least one thing that will completely take me out of my comfort zone.   This year, that event was scuba.  

 Staff helped me transfer from my wheelchair into the pool, which was heated by the way, to get started.   They actually put the equipment on you in the water to make it a little bit easier.   The biggest challenge I quickly learned about was learning how to breathe with the regulator.   Your instinct is to panic under water, but you are supposed to take huge deep breaths and trust that the regulator will breathe for you.  It felt surreal to be able to explore under the water with such freedom.   Timmy would flash me a thumbs up underwater and I can tell that he, too, was enjoying the experience.   I’m glad he and I were able to share this adventure together.   I would love to continue trying to learn how to become better at scuba. I felt so empowered taking part in that activity.

On the last day of the summit I took part in a wheelchair self-defense class.   I wanted to do this to learn a few ways to defend myself if I ever got into a sticky situation.   A lot of what we learned revolved around hand-to-hand combat techniques that could be used in case you felt threatened by someone.  Your first tactic is to try and de-escalate the situation by telling the individual that you don’t need any help or want trouble.   If that doesn’t work, then you try to gain the upper hand by getting them in a position where they are less likely to hurt you.   My class had two people in wheelchairs as well as someone who has a visual impairment.   It was great seeing how you can use momentum in your environment to protect yourself.   I hope to continue doing some self-defense training in the future.

 One of the best parts of the summit, to me, is the people.   This could range from the speakers to the other participants to the family members that come along for the ride.    I had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Kyle Maynard, who is somebody who lives with no limbs.   He is a remarkable person who has climbed some of the tallest mountains and taken part in an MMA style flight.   We have stayed connected after the summer and I know that he is someone that I will lean on for advice regarding my consulting work or life’s struggles. 

 I’m also reminded of some of the other participant’s like Cole who has joints that don’t bend, like a normal elbow or knee.   In spite of this, he was able to go on a group hike, and with the assistance of an off-road wheelchair, climbed to the top of a mountain in Colorado.   The support that Cole, I and all of the other participants of the summit receive while there is truly what makes this program so special. You are a part of an environment that is so supportive and encourages everyone get out of their comfort zone.   With the thought of always trying to do something a little bit bigger out of my comfort zone every year and seeing a video of Cole’s adventure on the mountain, I have challenged myself next year to climb up a mountain using an off-road wheelchair.  

I am truly trying to live the No Barriers motto of “what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way” I would strongly encourage anyone who lives with the disability or who wants to get more out of their life, to consider attending the No Barriers Summit.   I promise you, it will change your life as much as it has mine.   If you would like to learn more information about No Barriers visit their website HERE

 Remember please stay connected to all of our social media pages to learn about the latest and greatest updates on what we’re doing with 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC.   So many amazing things are happening.  Stay Tuned. 

 PHOTO: Matthew Going scuba diving.

PHOTO: Matthew Going scuba diving.

 PHOTO: Matthew shooting archery with his mouth.

PHOTO: Matthew shooting archery with his mouth.

Talking Professional Development at the 2016 Virginia Youth Leadership Forum

On July 27 I was able to go back to my roots as a disability advocate, but this time with a little bit of a different perspective.   I journeyed to Virginia State University to present to the 2016 class of the Virginia Youth Leadership Forum (YLF).   It was nostalgic as I entered the room to do my presentation.   I was thinking back to when I was a delegate at YLF back in 2007 and reflecting how far I’ve come as an individual and as a business owner.  I was so excited to give back, even a little bit, to this year’s crop of delegates.

 

             For this presentation I had the privilege of presenting alongside my good friend Alexis Nichols.   I met Alexis in 2013 when she participated in YLF as a delegate.   She has gone on to do some tremendous advocacy work around service animals and other areas in Virginia.   We were asked to do a presentation on all aspects of professional development for the delegates.  We spent many weeks leading up to the presentation refining and cementing our message so we could have maximum impact so the students could be better prepared to handle professional situations in the future.

 

             The topics we addressed in our presentation included subjects from what is supposed to go on a resume, how to find job applications and fill them out, to how to dress in an interview and strategies for all different forms of communication including, email, written, proper phone and voicemail etiquette, and how to communicate effectively on social media.  

 

We also touched on the importance of personal branding.   We told the students that it is vital to make sure that you have both business cards and an appropriate sounding email address, because you never know when you might come across someone to network with.   We also shared the importance of always dressing as if somebody’s watching because you never know if a first impression could lead to a positive or negative outcome for you.

 

 There was phenomenal discussion from both staff and delegates which made the presentation that much more rewarding.   I always love for my work to feel like collaboration rather than a solo act.   The presentation was very well received.   I was so grateful to have the students hopefully take away something that will help them in their professional careers.

 

 It is such a special feeling for me to be able to be part of this experience.   My YLF experience shaped my life and gave me a purpose.   For me to be able to hopefully give that feeling back to someone else has truly made everything come full circle.

 

 In addition to connecting with the delegates it was also great to reconnect with some of the staff members that I hadn’t seen for quite some time.  I follow what most of them are doing and they continue to do remarkable things. I view each of them as a partner in this fight towards complete disability inclusion.   Continue to strive to do amazing things and I will follow along on your journey with pride.   It was so great to reconnect with you.

 I had a phenomenal time providing this presentation and I hope that it is something that I will get to do again for future classes of the Virginia Youth Leadership Forum.   Thank you for the privilege of being a part of this remarkable experience.

 

 To the class of 2016 I challenge you to take what you learned over those four days and implement the skills back into your schools or your communities.   Continue to advocate and push for better outcomes for yourselves and others.   I cannot imagine what the future now holds for you, but I certainly look forward to all the amazing things ahead for you.   I will be watching.   Congratulations and good luck!

 

             If you’d like to learn more about the Youth Leadership Forum please visit the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities website HERE.  It is a life-changing program.

 

 Thank you for reading and please stay connected to us on our 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC   social media pages for more exciting updates.

 PHOTO: Matthew Presenting On professional development at this years Virginia Youth Leadership Forum

PHOTO: Matthew Presenting On professional development at this years Virginia Youth Leadership Forum

My Sensitivity Training for New Editions Consulting Inc.

On Thursday July 28 I made an early morning voyage to one of my most favorite places;  Washington DC.   What brought me there this time, you ask? Well, I had the opportunity, for the second time, to present my Disability Sensitivity Training to staff members of New Editions Consulting Inc.

 

            According to their website New Editions Consulting Inc. is “committed to enriching the lives of all people by providing premier program support services in the areas of health, disability, education and human services to government, non-profit organizations and commercial customers.”

 

 Last year, I was matched with Sheila Newman, New Editions’ President in a mentoring program.   Since then she has been a tremendous supporter in helping me establish 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC through connections and her resources.  She was the first person to give me an opportunity, which in turn led to my first paycheck, after 6 Wheels was born.   For that I am always grateful to her.

 

             This time she had me back to provide her new employees with my training to help them understand the disability community a little better.   My training covers, person first language, disability etiquette strategies, and suggestions on how to interact with individuals with all different types of disabilities.

 

              There were many great discussions and stories shared by me as well as the staff members who also had different disabilities.   These stories are always so rich and add such a unique perspective to this training. I thank everyone for their willingness to share their stories.

 

            This training is such an important tool to help us as a whole community to start to

break down some of the barriers and stigmas that surround disability and I am grateful to have a small part in that.

 

             I was happy that the training was well received and helped the staff feel more comfortable about disability.   I hope it is something that I can go back and do it again.   I want to thank all of the staff members for their attention and participation in the training.   I also want to, again, thank Sheila Newman for allowing me the opportunity to help her staff with some professional development.

 

If you would like to learn more about New Editions Consulting Inc. and the work they are doing to help individuals with disabilities and programs that help individuals with disabilities I encourage you to please visit their website HERE.  They are doing some truly amazing work.   Thank you for letting me hang out with you guys for a few hours.

 

             As always stay connected to 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC through all of our platforms to get the latest updates on what’s happening with me.   Some amazing opportunities are coming down the tracks.   Stay tuned!

 PHOTO: Matthew presenting his disability sensitivity training to New Editions Consulting Inc. staff

PHOTO: Matthew presenting his disability sensitivity training to New Editions Consulting Inc. staff

Life Moving Forward: A Personal Perspective on Transitioning into Adulthood Essay

Recently, I was asked by some professors at Brigham Young University to write an essay about my life and transitioning into adulthood with a disability.   The essay is set to be included in a book titled Flourishing in Emerging Adulthood: Positive Development During the Third Decade of Life.  The essay will begin the chapter on transitioning.   This book is set to be released sometime later this year or early next year.   With their permission I have decided to share my essay with you.   Please note that this is a lengthy essay, but I think it is well worth the read and talks about how I’ve become who I am today.   Please enjoy this piece and please share your comments and thoughts.  Thank you for your support!!!

 

Throughout life, transitions can create some of the most daunting experiences anyone will encounter. Leaving school, finding a job, moving out on your own, finding someone to share your life with all constitute life transitions and events that force everyone to look outside of their comfort zone to formulate a solution. Everyone dreads the change but we all must face it head on and accept the challenge of something different. For people with disabilities these changes may be overwhelming and, at times, debilitating. The key to success while transitioning is having attained the proper skill set to help overcome whatever transitional barrier(s) your particular disability mandates.

 I am a 25-year-old male who was born and raised in Virginia.  I am someone who, I hope and believe, has successfully transitioned to adulthood, though not without my ups and downs.  Because I was born with Cerebral Palsy (CP) I use a power wheelchair to help me get around and accomplish daily tasks.  I graduated from college in the fall of 2013. There I created my own disability advocacy degree under the Interdisciplinary Studies major titled “Advocacy for Social Justice.”  I also majored in Sociology and have a minor in Psychology. Some of my hobbies include: hanging out with friends and family, watching sports of all kinds, and working with individuals with disabilities.  Until recently, when I opened my consulting business, I never held a fulltime job, having only interned at all of my employment experiences. These internships include two federal and one state governmental entity and a disability resource center. Additionally, I have worked on a congressional campaign. I hope my experiences help to motivate you, whether you’re a student or a teacher reading this essay, to take control of your transition process or to help someone effectively transition to adulthood.

My transition to adulthood has been one of learning by trial and error. My transition process started during the summer of my junior year of high school when I participated in my first youth transition program, the Virginia Youth Leadership Forum (YLF).  YLF works with high school juniors and seniors with disabilities to educate them about disability history, self-determination, and advocacy skills.  This was my first experience being around other young people with disabilities.  It helped me realize there is a community of supports and people for me to lean on.  I have taken the lessons that I learned at YLF and incorporated them into other programs and internships that I have participated in.  Having a strong foundation of self-determination skills has helped me flourish, with some struggles along the way, into adulthood. 

An additional factor in my success has been the guidance of my family.  My parents have always done whatever they could to allow me to go on my many adventures and accomplish my goals.  My mom spends countless hours traveling with me around the U.S. to conferences and other events.  My dad is always there to provide me with sage advice whenever I come across a barrier that I think I can't overcome.  My older brother provides me motivation when I may be finding myself in a rut.  I have taken highlights from all of their advice, as well as the personal morals I have developed, and related them to my experiences to try to become the best adult I can be.  The skills I acquired through my family’s guidance have helped me navigate these transitional changes into adulthood a little more smoothly.                                                                

When I was getting ready to enroll in high school my brother gave me an important piece of advice that has become the mantra for my life. He said, “Get involved and stay involved.” You could say I took this advice and ran with it. In high school I was very active in the school community.  I was freshman class president and remained involved in some form of student government throughout my four years. I also served on the student newspaper for four years, including two as editor in chief.   I integrated myself into the sports teams by managing both the boys’ varsity basketball team for four years and the varsity football team for one season.  

When I transitioned into college I continued to get involved in activities.  I was a founding father of my fraternity chapter on campus.   When I wasn’t participating in fraternity activities I was helping students learn about people with disabilities through our student disability club. I also created and brought Disability History and Awareness Week to campus my freshman year. This was a college wide event that focused on the many aspects of disability with emphasis on educating other college students about issues surrounding disability.

Internships also played an important part of my college career.  In 2011, through the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) summer internship program, I interned at the US Department of Transportation (DOT).  While at DOT I worked in the Disability Resource Center which is an internal office within DOT that provides accommodations and the resources to employees of DOT who have disabilities.  Because of this experience I fell in love with the Washington, DC area so much so that in 2012 I left school and returned for a semester to intern at the White House.  Thanks to my brother’s advice I did not sit on the sidelines; I made it a point to be actively involved throughout my educational career.

In the fall of 2012 I took a semester off from college and interned for the Obama administration in the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE). During my internship I worked closely with the disability policy liaison and one of the deputy directors of OPE. While there I worked hard to master one of my greatest strengths which is my ability to communicate easily with anyone.   With this skill, the exposure this internship gave me, my passion for helping others, and my desire to be a voice for the voiceless, I have set a goal to have a career in public service.  I have learned throughout my experiences that my voice can carry a tremendous amount of influence to help create change for those who live with disabilities in this world.   I blend this lesson into all aspects of my life, making it paramount to me in my encounters with others.   Everyone should have a voice and I’m hoping to serve as that voice whether that is in government, my community, within my consulting business, or just in society as a whole.

Through my Washington, DC experiences I developed a passion for politics. This interest continued to grow as I increased my involvement in disability advocacy work.  I have always said that there are not enough people with disabilities in positions of power in the government and other high-profile sectors.  In the future I want to get involved in politics so as to spotlight people born with a disability as opposed to someone who acquired their disability from an accident. So often people who acquired a disability did so after they attained the self- determined skills they needed to accomplish their goals in life which also helped them have a better understanding about how to cope with their acquired situation.  I am motivated to be a role model to show everyone that people with disabilities can hold positions of influence and guide global change. 

As my experiences have helped shape my outcomes, I feel it’s important to give back in my own way.  Through my youth work I have met countless young people with whom I have stayed in contact and whom I consider close friends or family.   It is my hope that I have allowed these young people to lean on me when they encounter something they are unfamiliar with, whether it be transitioning to college or dealing with a frustrating situation. People have always asked me what I did to get through a similar situation which has resulted in volunteer mentoring becoming a huge part of my transition to adulthood.   To be trusted enough by others and to be able to pass experiences on gives me a very rewarding feeling and is the trait that I am most happy to possess. 

My understanding of transition aided my personal development through both good and bad circumstances.  Adulthood makes you realize what it is that you like doing, what you are good at and what you should not attempt. Through the transition process I have come to understand that I want to help others and to use my voice to do so, which is good in that I have found my passion and know the direction I want to move towards in the future. It has also helped me better understand and pinpoint my personal flaws.  I have begun to start identifying the challenges that my disability creates as an adult.  I completely understand my physical need to always be assisted by, thus dependent on, others to help with some, but not all aspects of my life.  I have always understood that this was going to be the case, but recently I began to put more emphasis on how I will manage this moving forward.  I am developing strategies to confront life’s obstacles, such as not being able to drive a car, as they arise.  Through skills such as advocating for myself, understanding how my disability affects me, and goal planning I hope to get through these situations with ease. 

Using my brother’s advice, my education from disability programs, and my goal to help others, I have tried to position my future to achieve the goal of service and education for all.  After I finished college I spent a few months trying to find a job in a disability related position.  I thought this was the best way to accomplish my goal. When I determined I was not having any success with my job search I took matters into my own hands and in 2014 started my disability consulting company.  Through professional consulting and public speaking services, I strive to educate and guide organizations to strengthen their understanding of disability culture and the issues that affect this population. I use common sense cost-effective solutions to solve disability related concerns. I hope later on in life to use my consulting company to propel me to a career in politics where I feel I can make the most significant contribution. 

The transition process is never easy, but given the proper tools it can be manageable.  One of the tools that is most important is the understanding and consideration of others. Within both the educational and the disability community adults often have stigmatic negative perceptions of people with disabilities. They tend to stifle younger individuals leading many other adults to assume that young people with disabilities are incapable of achieving major goals in life.   I feel that this mindset is twofold. Initially, adults don’t allow young people to experiment for fear that whatever is too dangerous or too complicated.  Adults also tend to over protect younger people so much that they don’t allow them the opportunity to fail.   Failure is one of the best ways for somebody to make it through the transition to adulthood affectively. It shows someone what they did wrong and how to potentially change it to not make the same mistake twice. My experience tells me 1) let young people figure out what is attainable on their own, don’t immediately discount an idea because you think it is unrealistic, 2) figure out what the young person is passionate about and incorporate that into their lessons or community, 3) adults who assist in the transition process need to be facilitators and not dream crushers. They need to help the young person explore so they can potentially achieve their goal. Transition is an integral part of everyone’s life. No one will be successful without having had the necessary experiences that give them the ability to transition through life’s challenges.

 PHOTO: Green  traffic sign that reads, "Welcome to Adulthood Population 4.4 Billion"

PHOTO: Green  traffic sign that reads, "Welcome to Adulthood Population 4.4 Billion"

Its Been a While and Man Have We Been Busy

I just realized that my last blog post was on January 23 and I feel like it’s time that I update everyone on what we’ve been up to.  Let me take you back to the end of January where I participated with one of my volunteer organizations at an event put on for animal organizations in the area.   I was there on behalf of Pawsibble.   We are an organization that provides resources such as trainers and education to individuals about service dogs.   At this event we had a table for people to learn about our organization and we were able to present in front of everyone a brief synopsis of what we are trying to do with the group.   We made many great connections and they have helped us with future events and accomplishing some of our goals.

 

 PHOTO: Matthew sitting behind the Pawsibble table at a recent fair.

PHOTO: Matthew sitting behind the Pawsibble table at a recent fair.

 

On February 9 I had the privilege of giving a presentation on disability sensitivity at an event titled: An Evening of Acceptance.   This was an event sponsored by Friendship Circle of Virginia.  The goal of the event was to bring many people together within the community to discuss how inclusion of everyone, including those with disabilities, can bring about positive outcomes for your community.   The event was attended by about 70 people including vendors.   Participants heard a variety of stories and about activities that are in our community that encourage inclusion.   I was honored to be able to participate in this event.  

In addition to the work I am doing with Friendship Circle of Virginia I have also begun to work with the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative to develop webinars around disability inclusion.   Our first webinar is currently being edited and is about physical access to all aspects of the Jewish faith for people with all types of different disabilities.  When it is completed I will be sure to share it on my social media.   We plan on covering more topics in the future.

 PHOTO: Matthew with disability advocate Judy Heumann and her assistant Tailor D'Ortona in Washington, DC At the 25 Anniversary celebration of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation.

PHOTO: Matthew with disability advocate Judy Heumann and her assistant Tailor D'Ortona in Washington, DC At the 25 Anniversary celebration of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation.

On February 25 we traveled up to Washington DC to take part in the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s 25th Anniversary celebration.   The goal of the foundation is to provide opportunities to young people with disabilities.   In the past I have been chosen to participate in two of the foundations granted programs.   I was an APPD intern in the summer of 2011 and I participated in the USBLN’s Career Link Mentoring Program last year.   Being able to get back up to DC and network with so many great people was a tremendous opportunity.   I had the chance to reconnect with Judy Heumann who is a pioneer and well-respected disability advocate who works for the State Department and fights for disability rights worldwide.   On the second day of this two-day event, a summit was held to discuss the future plans for the foundation in the hopes of creating a plan for the next five years. 

 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the duration of the second day because I had to travel to South Carolina.  On February 26 and 27th I was asked to present on behalf of the I’m Determined Project at a transition conference in South Carolina.   The first day was for rehabilitation counselors and teachers.   On this day I sat on a panel with young people from South Carolina to talk about what it means to be self-determined as a young person.  The second day of the conference was for families and students, and I served as the keynote speaker to help kick off the day with a bang.  I presented together with an I’m Determined adult leader and our presentation addressed how opportunities, both in and out of school, can help lead to a person becoming self-determined.  I also got to interact with parents and students closely.  I gain a great deal of gratitude in helping families anyway I can.

 PHOTO: Matthew in his wheelchair presenting his keynote in South Carolina.

PHOTO: Matthew in his wheelchair presenting his keynote in South Carolina.

 PHOTO: Matthew in South Carolina presenting his keynote in front of a screen.

PHOTO: Matthew in South Carolina presenting his keynote in front of a screen.

 PHOTO: Matthew presenting with youth from ABLE South Carolina about what it means to be self-determined.

PHOTO: Matthew presenting with youth from ABLE South Carolina about what it means to be self-determined.

In addition to all of my travels I also began shadowing down at the Virginia General Assembly with the hope of getting a more permanent opportunity there in the next couple of years.   To be involved in the political process is something that excites me and I look forward to potentially being more involved during more legislative sessions.  

Another future opportunity that I’m working on right now, but don’t want to talk about in great detail because we’re still in the working stages, will hopefully be getting me public speaking engagements nationwide. More on this as details become more crystallized.

             As always feel free to stay in the loop with us on our social media pages.   We have more great opportunities coming up and we will be sure to share those with you once they happen. Thanks and stay tuned.

   

The Friendship Circle Orientation

Recently, 6 Wheels Consulting was excited to participate in the orientation program for The Friendship Circle of Virginia.  The Friendship Circle program matches youth with disabilities with youth without disabilities to hang out together.  This happens in many ways.  The pairs and the community can participate in program-sponsored events and they can also hang out at the youth’s house as part of the Friendship Circle’s Friends at Home program.  This program sees that the matches come together for 1 hour a week to hang out at the youth’s home.  The programs that are a part of The Friendship Circle are so vital because for young people with disabilities making friends can be challenging for a variety of reasons.    

As part of the orientation 6 Wheels gave its disability sensitivity training to the young people who were in attendance. This training covered a variety of topics including person first language, tips for interacting with individuals with a variety of disabilities, tips for you to feel personally more comfortable around individuals with disabilities, learning about inclusion and how to be inclusive.

 We were very grateful for the opportunity to present this important information and hope that it helped the youth understand disabilities on a deeper level.

             If you would like to learn more about The Friendship Circle of Virginia and its programs we encourage you to visit their website HERE

 

Again, we thank The Virginia Friendship Circle for the opportunity to be involved in this great event.

 

As always, stay connected to what is happening with 6 Wheels Consulting by following us on our social media pages.   We have more great programs and talks coming up in the near future so please stay tuned.

 

 

 PHOTO: Matthew presents to the group at The Friendship Circle Orientation.

PHOTO: Matthew presents to the group at The Friendship Circle Orientation.

 PHOTO: The Friendship Circle of Virginia Logo

PHOTO: The Friendship Circle of Virginia Logo

6 Wheels Consulting 1 Year Anniversary- Thank You

Today is a special day for us at 6 Wheels Consulting.   Today marks our one-year anniversary of going into business.   As I reflect I can’t help but feel grateful for all the support throughout this first year.  This has been a whirlwind adventure that has allowed us to meet so many exciting people and go so many exciting places.  We have been able to spread our message of common sense solutions to disability related problems and we are grateful for that opportunity. We have developed as an organization and I have individually as a business owner. I’m so thankful because this opportunity is allowing me to do what I enjoy, which is to help others understand disability and understand that this population can be a vital group within your community.  We are currently working on some additional great opportunities that we hope to be sharing with you in the near future.  Stay Tuned.  We are excited to see what the next year holds in the cards for 6 Wheels.  This short post is to really just say thank you to everyone that liked our social media posts and followed along on the first year of this journey. Please continue to come along for the ride with us. I want to wish everyone a happy holiday season. Enjoy the time with your families as you celebrate whatever holiday you observe.   As always please stay connected to our social media platforms as new projects are in the pipeline. Once again from 6 Wheels Consulting Thank You for your support.

 PHOTO: 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC Logo

PHOTO: 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC Logo

 PHOTO: Sign that reads Happy Birthday to Us!

PHOTO: Sign that reads Happy Birthday to Us!

What a Crazy Few Weeks it has Been

6 Wheels Consulting has been on a bit of a whirlwind adventure over the last several weeks.  All of the meetings, trips, and presentations have helped to spread the word about common sense solutions to disability related issues, thus helping to spread the word about the mission of 6 Wheels Consulting.  This latest journey saw us hit two new states; Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Oregon,  for two events and stay close to home in Virginia for two others.   Sit back and enjoy reading about what we have done to keep ourselves busy over the last few weeks.

            The first two events took place in Richmond Virginia.  The first presentation took place on October 20 when we had the privilege of presenting the findings of our recent common sense accessibility assessment at four of the public library facilities in Henrico County to the managers of all of the county libraries. This presentation allowed them to get a better understanding of how to make their facilities more accessible without breaking the bank while doing so. The conversation definitely seemed to hit home because, several weeks later, I saw most of the library staff at the grand opening of the new Libbie Mill library in our county.   During this event many of the librarians that I had spoken to came up to me and said that they have implemented some of the suggestions I made during my presentation. They even asked if there were any recommendations that I would make for the new facility. Having the librarians respect my opinion and my suggestions encourages me to continue to fight for the mission of 6 Wheels Consulting.

 

 PHOTO: Matthew presents the findings of his assessment to all county library stuff.

PHOTO: Matthew presents the findings of his assessment to all county library stuff.

 PHOTO: Matthew presents along with staff from Sportable about his experience as an athlete in the importance of being on a team.  This presentation was part of Suntrust's ADA 25 Celebration.

PHOTO: Matthew presents along with staff from Sportable about his experience as an athlete in the importance of being on a team.  This presentation was part of Suntrust's ADA 25 Celebration.

            Our next event took place on the following day; October 21, when we joined a Richmond area nonprofit called Sportable at Suntrust Bank headquarters in Richmond to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. During the event we networked at a fair with other disability and diversity related organizations in the Richmond area.  Following the fair I participated in a presentation where I talked about my experience as a Sportable athlete and the benefits that being part of a team and that organization have provided me.  It is my hope that this presentation shed light on our community and about a great organization with the hopes that they would help provide some financial support to Sportable.  This event also provided me the opportunity to meet with some really great connections that I feel could help me tremendously in the very near future.

 

            The following week, on October 25th, we flew to Boston, Massachusetts where we participated in an all day event with disability parent centers at the NEPACT Region One Annual Conference.  The purpose of this event was to educate these parent centers on how to incorporate youth with disabilities into parent center activities.  During the day we first sat on an eight-person panel that talked about our experiences as individuals with disabilities and how we advocated for ourselves growing up.  It was great to hear the stories of the other seven panelists about how they have been able to work with their disability and become successful members of society.  After we concluded the panel we broke up into table groups based on our disability type and provided the attendees with tips on how to incorporate the specific type of disability into their work at their parent center.  I was part of the group that discussed working with individuals with mobility impairments.  This event allowed me to network with parent advocacy groups from other great states.  These connections may now allow us to potentially provide services in some of these states that we have not previously reached.

 

 

 PHOTO: Matthew smiles for the camera as he awaits the start of the Youth involvement breakout strand at the NEPACT Region 1 annual conference in Boston Massachusetts.  A group of 8 panelist was there to discuss how the parent centers in region one could get more youth involvement in their projects.

PHOTO: Matthew smiles for the camera as he awaits the start of the Youth involvement breakout strand at the NEPACT Region 1 annual conference in Boston Massachusetts.  A group of 8 panelist was there to discuss how the parent centers in region one could get more youth involvement in their projects.

 PHOTO: The group of Young professionals who presented at the NEPACT Conference.

PHOTO: The group of Young professionals who presented at the NEPACT Conference.

 PHOTO: Annie Downing and I presented at the 2015 annual DCDT conference in Portland Oregon. Our presentation was about our journey to becoming strong self advocates.

PHOTO: Annie Downing and I presented at the 2015 annual DCDT conference in Portland Oregon. Our presentation was about our journey to becoming strong self advocates.

            Our last leg of this adventure took us to Portland, Oregon on November 4th where we presented along with our friend, Annie Downing from Virginia, at the 2015 annual Division of Career Development and Transition (DCDT) Conference.  Our presentation was titled “ The Journey of Two Youth Advocates to Success.“  This presentation covered our paths from when we participated in our first advocacy program to where we are today and all of the steps in between.  We also provided tips and suggestions as to how the audience members could implement some strategies that helped make us successful with their own students.  Our presentation was strongly attended by around 25 to 30 educators from all over the country and world.  I was very grateful for the opportunity to present with Annie and hope it is something we can do together again in the future.  After the presentation several audience members approached us about some potential opportunities in the future. Stay Tuned.

6 Wheels Consulting is very thankful for all of the opportunities that we have had very recently.   We will admit however, that we will enjoy some time at home without any big trips planned in the near future.  We are continuing to work on some very exciting things that could be coming down the pipeline very soon.  As always please stay connected to us on our social media platforms for up-to-the-minute updates.   For now, we rest, because man what a crazy few weeks it’s been.

We Came. We Saw. We Conquered.

 PHOTO: Matthew sitting in front of The Disability Museum on Wheels smiling.  This picture was taken at the 2015 USBLN annual conference in Austin Texas.

PHOTO: Matthew sitting in front of The Disability Museum on Wheels smiling.  This picture was taken at the 2015 USBLN annual conference in Austin Texas.

At the beginning of the month, as mentioned in the previous blog post, we had the tremendous opportunity to attend the annual US Business Leadership Network conference in Austin, Texas.  The mission of the USBLN is to connect potential employees with disabilities to companies who are looking for unique talent.  This was a golden opportunity for 6 Wheels Consulting to network with the before mentioned businesses and students who were also in attendance.

 

The conference provided us with breakout sessions to learn about trends that are happening within the business world relating to people with disabilities. These sessions certainly shed some light on some strategies that we can undertake as an organization to make ourselves better.   We, as students, also had remarkable opportunities to take part in an innovation lab project where the students were required to develop a product that could help improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities in the workplace. We got to pitch our ideas “Shark Tank” style to see who developed the best idea. 

 

Because this year is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act there were also many great ADA related events.   The Disability Museum on Wheels made a stop in Austin during the conference and all participants were allowed to go through the museum to learn about the history of the disability rights movement and the passage of the ADA. 

 

I also took it upon myself to set up several one-on-one meetings where I got to learn some strategies I could implement to improve the business.   First, I met with a web designer to discuss how to make my website more disability accessible to all potential people who could visit the site and seek our services.   Another day I met with a mentor who guided me on some potential certifications that I could receive that could provide additional revenue sources and exciting opportunities for 6 Wheels.   More information will be coming soon on these new ideas.  As I reflect on this recent trip and try to recuperate from the jam-packed schedule I know that some of the connections we made while in Texas will lead to more exciting outcomes for 6 Wheels Consulting.   If you would like to learn more about the USBLN you can visit their website HERE. Stay Tuned and check out our social media.

 

 

 PHOTO: Panelists getting ready for a discussion at the USBLN conference in Austin, Texas

PHOTO: Panelists getting ready for a discussion at the USBLN conference in Austin, Texas

Training for HOME

This week we were asked to present our Disability Sensitivity Training to Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME).  This organization strives to provide equal access to housing for all people.  They reached out to us to see if we could help them better understand disability and how to work with their clients that live within this community. Our goal was to educate them on the basics of disability, types of disabilities, and how to consider common sense solutions to disability problems.  The training was well attended by their entire staff and everyone participated fully with a great question and answer session following our presentation. The goal of 6 Wheels Consulting is to work with businesses like HOME who want to better incorporate individuals with disabilities into our communities. The conversation has even sparked in us a new desire to develop some resources around housing and common sense accessibility.  We want to thank everyone associated with HOME for the opportunity to come and present on this important way of thinking about disability and hope that this is the beginning of a very fruitful partnership for both organizations.   If you would like to learn more about HOME please visit them at their website HERE and connect with them via social media. Please stay tuned for more exciting announcements from 6 Wheels Consulting and stay connected on our social media.

 PHOTO: Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME) Logo

PHOTO: Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME) Logo

 PHOTO: Matthew smiling while sitting in front of a screen with his sensitivity training projected on to it prior to a making this presentation.

PHOTO: Matthew smiling while sitting in front of a screen with his sensitivity training projected on to it prior to a making this presentation.

6 Wheels Consulting is headed to the Lone Star State to connect with the USBLN

During the early hours of Friday, September 25th we will be boarding a plane and heading to Texas to take part in the 18th Annual USBLN National Conference and Biz2Biz Expo.  The conference, which goes from Monday to Thursday, has representatives from many fortune 500 companies who are hoping to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in their companies and other diverse populations in the workforce.   Also during the conference there will be a great emphasis on young professionals with the opportunity for them to network with the previously mentioned businesses, which could potentially lead to opportunities in the future.  This will be my third conference as I have been invited the two previous years because of my involvement with the USBLN Student Advisory Council.

 

The conference also provides a unique opportunity for 6 Wheels Consulting  to discuss ways in which we could help businesses consider common sense solutions to disability related concerns in their workplace.  We hope to provide these businesses with some of our developed resources to help them advance their disability mission.  It is our hope that the USBLN and its member companies will one day become partners with 6 Wheels Consulting.    We look forward too many great breakout presentations and opportunities to work with both businesses and youth from all across the country. Even though it will be a full, jam packed, and tiring week, the potential benefits could be tremendous for 6 Wheels Consulting. As with most things in Texas we are hoping to make a big impression at the conference and continue the positive momentum of 6 Wheels Consulting.

 

For more information about the USBLN and their annual conference please visit their website HERE.  We will be posting a post trip blog once we return on Friday to tell you about our experience at the conference. To get real-time updates about the conference from 6 Wheels Consulting please follow our social media pages.  Texas here we come and 6 Wheels Consulting is ready to take you by storm.

 USBLN Logo

USBLN Logo

Roll a Mile on my Wheels Essay

A few months ago I wrote an essay talking about my experiences as a person with a disability and what a typical day looks like for me. I wrote this essay in order to start a dialogue around how we could improve some of these experiences for people with disabilities.  As you can see the title of this essay has become the title for my blog.  I would like to share that essay with you now in the hopes of starting that dialogue.   Please keep in mind this essay is kind of long so please be patient and bear with me.  I hope you will learn something from reading this and might have a few questions.   Please feel free to share your thoughts with me about this writing so we can start a conversation. Please enjoy my essay entitled “Roll a Mile on my Wheels”

 

Introduction:

Every day people have to make millions of decisions like, what do I eat for breakfast? What do I wear to school? What project to work on next?  For individuals with disabilities they could ask a lot of the same questions, however, people with disabilities must also ask another group of questions that can be vastly different and more complicated.  These are the questions that make us have to think outside of the box and be innovative on a daily basis.  Some of these questions could be who can I get to give me a ride to the grocery store? Is that restaurant wheelchair accessible?  Is there a curb cut on that sidewalk that will make it easier for me to use my crutches?  The disability community faces different challenges every day from their able-bodied peers.  Unless an able-bodied individual is affected by disability in some way; i.e. a sibling or a friend with a disability, they don’t realize the barriers that people with disabilities face constantly. A fact that many people fail to realize is that the disability community is the only minority group that anyone could join in the blink of an eye.  This could be due to sudden paralysis from an accident or an unexpected illness.  Everyone needs to start thinking with the mindset of universal design for all so that these challenges and barriers can be permanently eliminated. 

The purpose of this essay is to take you inside the life of an individual who has a mobility limiting disability. It will allow all individuals to gain an understanding of the types of hurdles that someone with a disability of this kind faces.  Through a better understanding of the disability world, it is the hope that everyone can start to think proactively not reactively about issues such as those that will be highlighted.  The reader will be taken through every aspect of the person’s day to illustrate where these challenges exist and to enlighten the non-disabled population regarding the hardships that can and do arise for those who live in this world.  This however, is only one recounting of one individual’s day of living with a disability.  We cannot cookie-cutter every person who lives like this, which is to say that not every person with a disability is the same. One person may have more mobility than the next or have a clearer speech pattern then an individual with his same disability.  These examples are used to illustrate that there is no one-size-fits-all type of disability.   This story is not meant to evoke pity, but instead is designed to start a dialogue with everyone on how we can best serve every person in our community whether they are disabled or not.

 

About Me:

As someone who is a part of, and worked with, the disability community for most of my life I feel I have a rare understanding of the challenges that a person with a disability must constantly face.  My name is Matthew Shapiro and I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP) at an early age.  My CP generally affects my motor skills and my ability to walk therefore; I use a power wheelchair to get around.  As you will see, every aspect of my day, as well as the activities I participate in require me to ask myself similar questions to those mentioned above.

 

Rise and Shine: The Morning:

The morning time brings about a variety of challenges for me every day. There is a several step process that I must undertake to ensure I am ready to take on the day.  Due to my inability to transition from place to place I am in need of full assistance for every activity that I must do in the morning.  The process begins as soon as I wake up. Someone must assist me in rolling over in my bed from my stomach to my back; the position I must be in to proceed. I am then transferred, using a ceiling lift, to a rolling shower chair where I am then pushed into the bathroom so that I can take care of my morning restroom needs.  Following this I proceed into my roll-in shower and again; because of my spinal fusion surgery, I need assistance during the showering process.  Once my shower is completed, while still in my shower chair, I am given time to dry off and then I am assisted in putting on my morning essentials such deodorant and several face lotions.  Upon completion of these tasks I am pushed back into my bedroom where I put on an undershirt and get transferred back into bed for dressing.  After the process is finished and I’m completely dressed I am finally transferred to my wheelchair where I will spend the remainder of my day.  This process, on a good day, takes   approximately 45 minutes.

The next step in my morning process is to eat breakfast.  After having my food prepared I am able to feed myself and take my daily pills.  After I finish my breakfast I brush my teeth, all the essential tools of which have been laid out for me ahead of time (toothbrush etc.)  Afterwards I proceed to put on a shirt.  This completes my morning routine and I'm ready to attack my day. As you can see there are a myriad of tasks that I, along with my assistant, must complete to have a successful morning and day.

 

Getting Down to Business: The Afternoon:

The afternoon timeframe usually provides many less challenges then the morning. This is because once I am in my wheelchair I'm a fairly independent individual.  During the afternoon I complete work tasks and answer emails and return phone calls. On a normal day when I have no appointments outside of my home, my two biggest needs are for someone to provide me lunch and for someone to assist me with restroom needs.  The only other thing that I must consider in terms of accessibility is to know that all the tools/belongings that I may need to gain access to throughout the day are within my reach.  These items could be my laptop, a video game controller, a cup for water, or something on my desk. I have gotten in the habit of always putting items in reachable locations.  I may also need some assistance if I drop an item on the floor.  The only time my afternoon plan may change is if I have to leave the house. This is a topic that I will address later in this essay. The afternoon timeframe allows independence, as this is a time when I don't need as much help from an assistant.

 

Man, It's Been a Long Day, and It's Time to Wind Down: The Evening:

The evening, like it is for most people, is the time when I unwind from a busy day of meetings or projects.  I watch TV or play video games to escape the stressors of the day.  When it comes to my accessibility needs, the evening brings about similar challenges as the morning; they just need to be done in reverse order.  For the sake of this discussion I will say that most of my evenings begin around 5p.m. After relaxing for a few hours, dinner is generally served around 6 or 7.  After having the meal cooked, someone must cut up my food before I can eat it.  Once it is cut I can enjoy it on my own.  After dinner I usually participate in an independent activity such as watching TV, reading a book, or playing video games until it gets to be bedtime; around 10 or 11 o'clock at night. It is at this time of night when the most assistance is needed. Again, think of this as the morning, but in reverse. My assistant first must help me by removing the top half (above the waist) of my clothes that I’ve worn throughout the day and replace them with the top half of my pajamas.  The person then, using my lift, transfers me from my wheelchair to my bed.  Next, after removing the lift, and its sling, my assistant must remove my pants that I’ve worn throughout the day and replace them with my pajama bottoms.  The last step in the process is to have my assistant help me roll over onto my stomach, as this is the position I sleep in nightly.  This concludes my evening process and we begin the entire process over the next day.

 

Leaving my Home for a Day out on the Town:

            As I outlined above, there are several decisions, choices, and tasks that I must complete throughout the day around my home in order to be successful.  Additionally, let’s examine what happens when I decide to leave the comfort of my home.  I’m very fortunate to have friends and family who often drive my van to a restaurant, a meeting or a movie.  Each one of these trips has its own set of accessibility questions that I must consider.  The first question is whom can I get to drive me?  As someone who can’t drive because of my disability I must find someone to drive me wherever I go.  Then, I must consider if my destination is wheelchair accessible on all fronts.  Is the shopping center where the store is located accessible?  Can I gain access to the sidewalk via a curb cut to get up to the front of the store?  Once at the door is there a step up to get into the establishment?  Is the doorway wide enough to get my wheelchair through and into the store?  Once I am in the retail outlet there are even more questions to contemplate.  Can I get my wheelchair around in this store effectively and safely without hurting anyone or knocking over displays?   Can I reach items in the store that I may want to look at?  Is there an elevator in the store so I can access the second floor if necessary?  Is there a wheelchair accessible restroom?

Each location is going to bring about different questions based on where I’m going.  If I’m going to a movie for example, do they have wheelchair accessible seating in the theater? Or if I’m going to a restaurant, can I get to the table without disturbing others who are already eating and once I’ve made it do the table does it have legs that allow me entry to the table, and if so, is there enough room for me to get my wheelchair underneath properly?  As you can see, like with most things in the disability community, in order for me to leave my house I must first have a strategy in place.

 

Conclusion and Final Thoughts:

The purpose of this essay is to illustrate the daily life of one individual with one type of disability. We as a society need to adjust our thought processes and become more “cutting edge” by being more proactive in our planning when providing for people with disabilities.  We also must remember that people who are aging also fall under the disability spectrum and that this is a minority group that will only continue to grow as the Baby Boomers age. According to the World Health Organization as of June 2014, over 1 billion people, or about 15% of the world's population, live with some form of disability – that’s one in 7 people. We must start a more comprehensive dialogue around the concept of people with disabilities living and working independently and being a part of a completely accessible society.  It is my hope that this essay has enlightened you to the struggles that people with disabilities like mine face everyday. I encourage you to think about life within your community and its accessibility. Strive to make changes so that everyone has access to your community, regardless of gender sex or disability everyone wants to feel like they belong.  Ask yourself, are you doing enough?

 PHOTO: Blurry black silhouette of a person in a wheelchair

PHOTO: Blurry black silhouette of a person in a wheelchair

Welcome to my Journey, Please Tag Along for the Ride

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.

 PHOTO: 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC Logo

PHOTO: 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC Logo