O’Ryan Case is the Director of Membership and Public Education for United Cerebral Palsy’s national office. He grew up in Maryland and lives there now, the proud dad of a three-year-old son. As a person with CP and the director of several of UCP’s programs, he has a very personal connection to UCP’s newest initiative, My Life Without Limits, which he writes about here.
Introducing My Life Without Limits
All of us at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) are excited to see the launch of My Life Without Limits (www.MyLifeWithoutLimits.org). Connecting with others who have a disability is something that I never really did until I started working at UCP. Until then, I must have known less than a handful of others. My visits to the Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, or “The duPont Institute,” as I remember it were big deals– not just because I was meeting with doctors and nurses who understood my cerebral palsy (CP), but because I would see other kids and teens who had visible disabilities. Though I had the best family and friends and great times in and outside of school growing up, the visits brought a feeling of comfort– there, I felt “normal.”
When I joined UCP, my life changed. I began to understand how there are so many other people with disabilities (one billion worldwide). It was interesting how there are so many, yet I hardly knew of any others. Immediately, our stories were shared– those related to growing up and our relationships, jobs, goals and more. This connection is one that everyone should have the opportunity to experience. Social media has been wonderful by allowing people with disabilities to connect. I’ve met great friends through Facebook groups and Twitter chats and certainly plan and hope to continue doing so.
Though these connections through social media have been great, I can’t put into words how excited I am for our new My Life Without Limits (and mobile-friendly!) website. UCP gets it– how it’s so important for people with disabilities to be able to communicate, bounce ideas, exchange advice and vent about latest stories, hot topics, edgy subjects and whatever else is on our minds. For example, have you ever heard of the “CP hand?” Of course, this isn’t a medical term but after chatting with others who “have it,” it seems about as good of a term as any other. I’m sure many people reading this will know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, it’s basically a resting position of the hand that, apparently, seems common among people with CP. I used to see it and wonder why I kept doing this weird thing with my hand but after discovering others doing it (and sharing some good laughs about it), I know it’s just another part of my disability.
My Life Without Limits will be community-driven, allowing people with disabilities to join and receive the latest news and other benefits from being a member, write guest blogs, comment on blog posts and resource pages and participate in polls and surveys. Soon, the site will have its own forum, where members can stir up conversations and ask for advice. Information and resources pertaining to education, entertainment and lifestyle, health and wellness, travel, relationships and more will be available and updated, with guidance from members themselves. People can share new resources or upcoming events that others should know about. They can use the #MyLifeWithoutLimits hashtag on social media to connect with us and highlight a day-in-the-life of someone with a disability. Whether it’s a photo of a broken escalator (oh boy) or graduation or marriage pic (whoop!), we’re excited to see it. There’s a good chance others can relate and will appreciate seeing someone else going through the same experiences. And our “What’s Hot” button is a good daily dose of entertainment, news, stories and more that is trending in the world of having a disability.
Remember, just like UCP, My Life Without Limits serves people with a range of disabilities– those with CP, spina bifida, autism, multiple sclerosis, amputation, traumatic brain injury and more. It’s a resource for all disabilities and I’m certainly excited to be able to connect with so many others (including those with CP, of course) who have gone through alike experiences or are looking ahead to similar goals and challenges– and I’m excited for others everywhere to be able to do the same things. I’ve had some of the best conversations (at the office, during a road trip, over a drink, through a chat on social media) with others who have disabilities about topics that, at one time, I never would have imagined being able to discuss– the stage fright at graduation, getting into that first relationship, not being allowed in a bar because the bouncer thinks I’m ridiculously drunk– I’ll stop there but the list goes on and on. My Life Without Limits will allow these conversations to happen even more and reach a much wider audience.
If you have a disability, we hope you’ll check out this new resource. If you don’t have a disability but know someone who might be interested, please let them know. And, if you have a child or a loved one with a disability, we have a resource just for you, too. Check out UCP’s My Child Without Limits program which serves as the go-to resource for the parents and families of people with disabilities. This is an exciting start to 2015 and we hope to get to know you soon!