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A Paradigm Shift in Disability

As I take on my new role in Education and Outreach for the Transition Program at the Center for Disability Rights, I feel a deep sense of honor and responsibility. I will be guiding people through their transition from institutions, drawing upon my own journey from living in an institution to embracing independence in the community. My task involves speaking to nursing home staff, resident councils, community groups, and residents of nursing facilities about our program. I bring not just training on the transition process to this role, but also my personal, lived experience.

I know the process of transitioning intimately because I've lived it. There was a time when I believed that I would be institutionalized forever, unable to live in my own home. This belief was part of a larger, problematic view I had internalized about disability - a view rooted in the medical model that saw me as broken, in need of fixing and curing. This perspective is not just limiting but damaging, as it focuses on the individual as the problem rather than the societal barriers and systems that create the real issues.

The turning point for me was embracing the social model of disability. It was a profound paradigm shift. I had to unlearn the harmful notions I had been taught about disability and come to understand that disability is an intrinsic part of my identity. It's not something to be fixed; it's a part of who I am. The real change that needs to happen is not within me but in the society around me - in the oppressive systems that segregate and neglect disabled people.

My role is more than just facilitating a physical transition; it's about advocating for a societal transformation. I aim to challenge and reshape the perceptions of those I speak to, helping them see beyond the outdated medical model of disability. My journey from feeling trapped in an institution to living independently in the community serves as a powerful narrative that I hope will inspire and empower others.

I'm not just assisting individuals in changing their physical living situations; I'm aiding them in reclaiming their autonomy and identity. My experience and training equip me to provide both practical guidance and empathetic support. This role isn't just a job; it's a continuation of my advocacy - a fight against systemic barriers and for the creation of laws and services that recognize and uphold the dignity and rights of people with disabilities.

Every conversation I have, every story I share, is a step towards building a more inclusive and equitable society. In my role, I focus on empowering others with the knowledge that a life of independence and self-determination is not only possible but also their right. My personal journey is a testament to what can be achieved and serves as a beacon of hope in this fight for justice and equality.

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