Daman Wandke is an accessibility analyst and disability advocate in the Washington, DC area.
My name is Daman Wandke and I work as a User Interface Analyst at SSB BART Group, an information technology (IT) accessibility consulting company. In this role, I provide consulting to large corporations on how to make their IT accessible. I am also a national disability advocate, currently serving as a Board Member of PolicyWorks, where we advocate to improve public policy that would increase employment access for people with disabilities. Previously, I served as the Student Advisory Council Chair of the US Business Leadership Network. My advocacy efforts focus on accessible information technology and increasing disability employment. I earned my Master of Business Administration in an accelerated one-year program. My resume includes accessibility work at many federal agencies: NOAA, USDA, NASA and FHFA. Oh…and I happen to have Cerebral Palsy (CP).
Having CP taught me how to accomplish tasks differently. I use an electric scooter and forearm crutches for mobility. I lack in the fine motor department, so I need help with some tasks. My speech is moderately affected by CP, so sometimes I have to get creative in verbal communication if people do not know me well. Having a disability has taught me a lot in life that has contributed to my successes. I am a good problem solver and creative. What do you do when you can’t use keys? Install a keyless entry lock on your apartment’s door that works with a remote, just like a car. My disability also taught me about management and teamwork. I have been hiring and managing personal care attendants since I entered college.
I recently saw a sweatshirt advertised on Facebook page dedicated to CP awareness that said: “Someone I know needs a cure.” I found that sentiment to be somewhat offensive. I am a successful 25 year old that would not be where I am today without CP. My disability is my “normal.” Where would I be today without CP? I wouldn’t be consulting with large companies on how they can improve their IT accessibility.I wouldn’t be advocating side-by-side with national leaders for the disability community. Yes, my body works differently but it’s not broken, nor sick, nor does it need to be cured.
Instead of a cure, let’s advocate for equality. Not only do I not want a cure, I do not want to be “baby talked” because my speech sounds a little different. I do not want to be turned away from an event because the only entrance has stairs. I do not want to have to pick between working full-time and having access to the personal care attendants. Cerebral Palsy doesn’t worsen over one’s lifetime like a disease. Let’s focus on creating a society of equal opportunity for all people with disabilities, including people with Cerebral Palsy, rather than searching for some kind of “cure.”
This post can also be found on Voices of UCP.